Celebrating Saga Dawa Düchen & Teaching Younger Monks





Our time at Drepung Loseling Monastery has gone by faster than I anticipated. We started teaching at a local school for grade school monks, so every day after lunch we go and teach English to various grade levels. This is probably my most favorite part of the day simply because of how eager and friendly the students are.

I have begun to feel more exhausted than I did when we were in Dharmasala due to the pace and intensity of class and activities, so teaching the kids serves as a rejuvenating break. Initially, I was nervous about teaching since I hadn’t taught a class before, but luckily I had a partner who had and we would work together on coming up with engaging activities and methods of teaching aspects of English such as prepositions, basic verb tenses, and other components of the English language. Our class of students would catch on very quickly to the English rules we would teach them and with enthusiasm.

Along with the opportunity to teach, we have also begun researching for our final projects more intensely. We have group presentations on topics that we chose and an individual research paper based loosely on that same topic after the program ends. My group chose Tibetan medicine as our topic and we researched the accessibility, cost-efficiency, and sustainability of Tibetan medicine.

As we learned in our classes, Tibetan medicine prioritizes treating people for ailments over making a profit and maintain low-costs for treatments and clinic visits while also reaching populations across India. We wanted to know how the Tibetan medical system is able to treat so many while also keeping costs so low.

Additionally, Buddhist philosophies are very much embedded in the core values of Tibetan medicine was also something we explored and researched. As for my personal research paper, I decided I wanted to write about the globalization of Tibetan medicine and the ethical implications of it. As part of the assignment, we are required to interview monks from the monastery to get their viewpoints and guidance on our projects and papers, which has been very insightful and interesting.

I have gotten varying opinions on the ethical implications of global integration of a localized medical system, with some monks seeing it as a positive manifestation of culture sharing, while others seeing it as an erasure of the medical system’s true origins.

Beyond the classroom, we have taken field trips to various temples and other parts of the monastery’s campus. For instance, for one field trip, we were able to get a close up look at the process of making sand mandalas. I learned that the process of making sand mandalas was a form of meditation since it takes a level of concentration. However, not all monks engage in this practice since it requires a high level of devotion, commitment, and skill.

The mandalas were absolutely breathtaking due to the level of detail of the images, that it seemed impossible that the images were made from sand. Another trip we took was to the temple closest to us at night to celebrate Saga Dawa Düchen which commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni, We were able to witness the special prayers done in the temple by many of the monks living close by. These various trips paired with the courses we have been taking have left me with very little free time to reflect, but I’m perfectly fine with being constantly engaged and occupied since everything I’ve learned is so valuable.