… It, however, is in need of funding to sustain

Tshering Namgyal | Lhuentse

Almost a year and half after an old age home for retired monks in eastern dzongkhags was inaugurated in Lhuentse, not a single elderly monk reside there.

The goenpa, which could accommodate more than 100 elderly monks, is now used as a monastic institution to educate more than 30 young monks.

Dorzhong goenpa is located few kilometres above Gorgan town. The main temple and the residential colony was constructed since 2015 and inaugurated in July 2018. The government funded the construction. It is also connected with motorable road, electricity and drinking water.

 The institution with a curriculum up to eighth standard was established since the beginning of last year.

 About 36 monks including a lam, and two teachers excluding a volunteer female graduate English and Hindi teacher reside there today. The monks are from Haa, Paro, Punakha, Chukha, Sarpang, Samtse, Mongar and Lhuentse.

 Lam Tshewang Jamtsho said the monks are not only taught basic lessons, but also ritual practices, ritual cakes making, mask dances and astrology.

 He said that with all the basic infrastructures in place now, life became easier. “The monks don’t have to carry essentials uphill from the Gorgan for about an hour now and don’t have to stay in darkness.”

 He said the old road was connected from Budhur via Wambur chiwog and hiring bolero from Mongar to the monastery would cost around Nu 3,000 and Nu 1,000 from Gorgan was Nu 1,000. “It’s now reduced to between Nu 1,500 and Nu 2,000 from Mongar and Nu 300 from Gorgan.”

 Lam Tshewang Jamtsho said the monastic school was started so that the infrastructures are made into good use. “In the long run, I hope retired monks and lams and elderly people might come and live here.”

Meanwhile, the institution has challenges.

With only five monks registered with Lhuentse rabdey and other monks privately admitted, they are managing with stipend for only five monks and salary for two teachers. They also survive on donations.

Lam Tshewang Jamtsho said His Holiness the Je Khenpo granted seed money of Nu 1 million, which was used to procure religious equipment and meeting the monthly expenditure of the monastery, which comes to around Nu 40,000.

He said that His Holiness’s parents also support the goenpa with both cash and kind.

Recently, the lam was seen collecting seven sacks of vegetables contributed by some vegetable vendors in Mongar. “We accept any offerings in cash and kind. Last year, a friend of mine, who is the lama of the RBA camp contributed a dress set for the monks,” lam Tshewang Jamtsho said.

He said he stopped admitting additional monks, as he is not sure if he could feed them, as sustainability is an issue. “About seven children expressed their interest to join.”

He said he is writing a book to print so that he could sell and raise funds.

The other issue is unavailability of taxi and vehicle from the locality to take young monks to hospital when they fall sick.