Tuesday, December 22, 2015



Founding of Lawa Khangtsen

Sera Je Lawa Khangtsen (Lawa House; Lawa Residential Section) is one of the thirteen Khangtsens (‘Houses;’ Residential Sections) of Sera Je Monastic University. It was founded by Keu-tsang Jampa Monlam, the then presiding Abbot of Sera Je, circa 1775. From the time of its inception, the Khangtsen has become greatly renowned for its resident scholar-practitioners’ diligence at the studies of the major texts, and adherence to rules, and delightful conduct.

The time since arriving in exile in 1959

In 1959, most of the monks of the Khangtsen followed His Holiness the Dalai Lama, into exile in India, arriving at Buxor, in north-east India, where a monastic seat comprising of all ordained scholars who made it into exile was set up. The hot climate of the plains in that area did not suit the Tibetans; this, coupled with difficulties with means of sustenance, resulted in experiences of immense hardship. Nevertheless, in 1969 there came the opportunity to move to southern India. Allocated a monastic setting within the Tibetan settlement at Bylakuppe, close to the city of Mysore, the Khangtsen—as part of Sera Je—had a gradual increase in the number of monks, engaged at the studies of the major texts and other fields of knowledge.

Revival of the teachings since the move from Buxor

There were only 13 monks of Serje Lawa Khangtsen who arrived from Buxor. Notwithstanding the hardship of sustenance at Bylakuppe during those early days, those venerable monks decided to re-establish Serje Lawa Khangtsen. It was a time of Tibet’s spirituality and temporal situation at its most vulnerable state, akin to a little lamp amidst a hurricane, yet the venerable monks kept a spirit of determination ablaze in their heart, and cherished the cause of Tibet’s spirituality and temporal welfare more than their life. They did farming to support themselves, while at the same time, whenever they found opportunity, continued their studies into the major texts and implemented into practice the teachings. In particular, by seeing the need for a stably established monastic seat and of the Khangtsen, for the continued prevalence of the Teachings of the Buddha, they initiated the works of re-establishing in exile the monastic university (Sera Je) and the Khangtsen.

The 13 venerable monks of Lawa Khangtsen who had arrived from Buxor first built, in 1972, a small Congregation Hall, with a capacity to seat some 20 monks. That was the first Congregation Hall of Lawa Khangtsen since arriving in exile. Thereafter, around 1980’s as there arrived a stream of new recruits from Tibet, all could not fit into the Congregation Hall, there was also the problem of inadequate residential quarters. As such, the foundation stone was laid for the present Congregation Hall, where subsequently the downstairs was used as the residential rooms, and the upper storey as the Congregation Hall.

It appears that the present Congregation Hall was built at the time when the total number of monks at the Khangsten was little less than a hundred, and the hall appeared at that time too big to conceive; it was said that the venerable monks, in jest, would remark that when a time comes the hall is filled with new recruits, it would be at an aeon’s end.

Such an outlook is understandable because with their life at stake they had to escape into exile in India, where upon arrival, they had to restart from scratch their “road to walk on and a place to sit,” and had to “borrow” from others the use of even a tiny piece of land. The Congregation Hall which they built under those trying times, with untainted pure altruistic motive, would have to be an auspicious unarranged yet perfectly set outcome, for, since that time, with gradual increase in monks at the Khangtsen, the strength of the monks at the Khangtsen has now reached three hundred.

Crossing mountain passes and countries, in hardship, to reach exile

Of the 300 monks that are now at the Khangtsen, about eighty per cent of them had started by carrying, from their home, food supply for the road on their shoulders, travelling on their feet, crossing numerous snowy mountain-passes and countries, spanning over forty to fifty days on the road, often travelling by night and hiding by day, to escape detection by the Chinese and the border patrols. Some twenty per cent had arrived in exile by obtaining a travel document, yet the aim was the same with all.

Those who escaped into exile by walking did so via routes which are the highest snowy mountain regions of the world, with narrow trails. Not to mention that there were on the way no houses to sleep, no dry place to sit, even the shoes became frozen in ice day and night; through desolate mountains and regions, where blizzards and windstorms blew, there was not a moment to sit relaxed, everyone shivered from inside their body of the biting chill. Some who suffered frostbite on their legs had to have their leg/s amputated in Nepalese hospitals upon arrival in the transit country Nepal. Some starved to death on the road, after their food supplies ran out. Some suffered snow blindness from the intense sunrays upon the snows, and were not able to see their way.

Even those who did not suffer from sickness and other problems, faced shortage of food when their supplies ran out on the long way to exile; after crossing high mountain passes, sometimes when they came across isolated and scattered homes of people, all the money they had were exchanged for a few potatoes from those locals; when the money ran out the escapees took off their wrist-watch and clothes and exchanged them with the locals for food, and through that way they tried to overcame starvation. The locals would charge ten times more than the market price for the potatoes and tsampa.

Yet, when all loads of supplies and clothes ran out and they—almost becoming naked, bereft of anything left to wear—just made it to the transit country Nepal, where when they arrived at the exile Tibetan administration’s Reception Centre, their physical exhaustion and mental burden of stress would disappear, like rainbow disappearing suddenly; there spontaneously arose an inexpressible feeling of as if the mundane world had arrived at a paradise. At that time, in their thoughts they would anticipate being able to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama, since they were now close to reaching India, and there was a great joyfulness, and at the same time, realising that it would be now difficult to be able to meet again their kind parents and relatives back in Tibet, there was the angst of sorrow—this blend of joy and sorrow would make them shed tears.

All who escaped into exile, thus, with immeasurable hardships, had these same principal goals: to be able see the delightful face of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, at the least once in a lifetime; and to be able to do studies and practice on the major texts, through which, under the guidance of His Holiness, to be able to accomplish peace and happiness in the world in general, and more specifically to be able to serve for the spiritual and temporal needs of Tibet, the Land of Snows.

Regular studies

Of the nearly 300 monks at Lawa Khangtsen, apart from the elders and those who have completed their studies, over 260 monks are all scholars. Of these, 250 are at the studies of the major texts: the Geshe Lharampa Class at the top and the initial Small Collected Topics Class. There are some 10 juniors who attend the monastery’s general Secondary School. In general, in the past in Tibet, the Khangtsen’s Rules required all to focus only on the studies of the major texts, it was not allowed to engage in Mantra rites, and learning of the common fields of knowledge. Due to the changes in time and circumstances, these days the monks at the Khangtsen focus on the studies of the major texts, while studying other—grammar, poetry, etc.—as branch fields of knowledge.

The schedules for prayer congregations, tutorials, and daily debates are as follows: The monks rise prior to 06: 00am and do memorisation of the core texts and commentarial texts. Then, after taking breakfast they attend daily tutorials on the major texts. If it is during semester, there is the daily dialectic debate from 09: 00am up till 11:00am; during semester-breaks there is no morning debate, the time subsequent to breakfast till midday is for attending tutorials, and memorising of the texts.

The lunch is at 11:00am. From 11:30am till 12:30pm is the time for Collected Topics three classes to practise handwriting, and receive tutorials on the initial stage of grammar; those of Freshers at Major Texts class up to the Middle View advanced class, receive tutorials on the general fields of knowledge and do self-studies. Sometimes there are English and Chinese language tutorials as well after lunch. After about 12: 30pm there is siesta for a short while. After 01:00pm some engage at reading of the texts, some attend tutorials, depending on the class allocations. The supper is at 05:00pm, followed by dialectic debates which start from 06: 00pm and continue till 09: 00pm/10: 00pm. At the finish of the dialectic debates, upon arriving at the residential quarters, straight away those of below Middle View advanced class below have to do revision-reading and memorisation-revision of the texts; those above Vinaya class stay in their room, engaged at reading of the texts, until sleep time. This then is the daily schedule.


In a week, Tuesday is the day off. During the eighth month of the Tibetan calendar when the monastic Summer Retreat concludes there is a holiday for 8 days. From 25th day of the 12th till the 8th day of the 1st month of the Tibetan calendar is the Losar New-Year holiday.

The simple monks who have nothing certain about their stability of stay and of means of sustenance remain absorbed at their studies, not feeling the difference between day and night, rather studying at all times. To be able to do so is entirely due to the compassionate care of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the kindness of the past elders of Buxor, and of the support from the faithful benefactors.

The present factual situation and an appeal
which we cannot avoid putting forth

The regular expenses, for sustenance, of the monks amount to about US$15 a month, which covers the monthly needs of factors for study, and for robes, and the miscellaneous. In emergencies—such as, becoming ill—when slightly more expenses are incurred, and thus if funds are needed the monks seek help from the Khangtsen’s General Welfare Office, and if the office is unable to provide the funds, the monks have to try other means of help according to individual circumstances.

As such, we at the General Welfare Office of Serje Lawa Khangtsen bring our hands folded in gesture of appeal, and make this appeal to you all: If it is not going to adversely affect your livelihood, please consider being a benefactor for the expenses of a monk, or kindly make a general donation—in essence, please help us at Lawa Khangtsen by your great loving-kindness and compassion.

Also, a specific problem we at Lawa Khangtsen are facing is the state of the present Congregation Hall. This hall, built some 30 years ago, is the only hall we have for our prayer-gatherings and other congregational needs. Even when all space between the seating rows are used to accommodate extra seating, some 70-80 monks still need to sit outside of the hall, for lack of space. Due to inadequate funds when the hall was first built, only cement was used without inner iron reinforcement. If renovations were done, by brick extension, on this old hall, with unstable pillars and beams, it would simply become too heavy for the old structure to hold; if new storey is added, there would be the danger of the structure below collapsing. As such, it would not be possible to renovate this present old hall.

On the other hand, there is a fair distance between the Congregation Hall and the residential quarters of the monks, resulting in much time it takes for the monks to walk to the hall and the inconveniences arising from that.

As such, we, the officials of Lawa Khangtsen’s General Welfare Office, have been thinking of a plan and hope of being able to build as soon as possible a new Congregation Hall, in order to: (a) mainly solve the problem of inadequate seating space when our monks congregate for prayers and tsogs (tsog; multitude meritorious rites); (b) to save travel time and thus to increase the time for studies, especially when there is a great determination to do studies from the part of the monks; and (c) to prevent the danger of possible fatalities from the structure collapsing from overweight if prayers and tsog gatherings were to continue in the present old hall.

To all our dear friends and supporters in all parts of the globe, we request you that with your long sight of loving-kindness and compassion towards us, please help us with this project of the General Welfare Office.

Concluding Thanks and dedication wishes

Here at the end we extend our gratitude to you for going through this Introduction to Lawa Khangtsen. We at Lawa Khangtsen’s General Welfare Office pray for you all to have always a good health, and that your present and ultimate goals become free of obstacles and that they are achieved successfully.

Introduction to our local area, in the southern region
of India, the Land of Superiors

Sera Monastic University was re-established in exile here in the southern India as a part of the first major Tibetan settlements with lands for farming and monasteries made available from clearing of dense forest. The area is formed in the plains, vast and mostly flat lands, with good growth of crops and of timely rainfalls. The surrounding hills, rivers and creeks, and dense forests with a variety of fauna make up a very beautiful natural setting. Compared to other parts of India, the area’s climate is pleasantly moderate, and the surroundings remain green throughout the four seasons.

In a year, after February the weather gets warmer, the temperature reaching over 30 ºC in May. From May rainfall begins, and by July the temperature drops to around 20 ºC. During the months of monsoon rain—which is from June till August—the constant rain makes the weather occasionally cold and occasionally hot; the area would be moist. The monks would prepare in advance for adequate warm robes and an umbrella. When they attend their daily dialectic debates, they would carry an umbrella in one hand and a cushion under armpit of the other. In the big forest behind Sera, at that time the plants and flowers blossom; sometimes on Tuesdays—the weekly day-off—when the young monks go to the forest for a day out, elephants, tigers, leopards, deer, and so on, would be seen in the forest. By mid-August the monsoon finishes, and then onwards the sky would be clear, without clouds obscuring it, and the soothing breeze from the ocean would make the elements in the body set balanced. Then the temperature would gradually drop, that by December and January, it would be around 20 ºC. In these southern parts of India these months are considered as times of cold weather. The local farmers grow maize, rice, potatoes, and other crops all year around, by using irrigated water, making as well the area look green in all seasons. These parts of southern India are considered environmentally beautiful and many visitors flock to the area. For you all as well, if you have the time, we welcome you to visit the area for your relaxation.

General Welfare Office
Serje Lawa Khangtsen            



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