Originally posted on Beezy ‘s Facebook page, and shared with her permission.
Today Judith Webster from Switzerland, and Jerry Zadow and Dr. Craig Ottenstein from the US left Jhamtse Gatsal for home. While they were here, we had the opportunity to work together to articulate the working relationships between three independent, but closely related organizations that work together to spread peace in the world through love and compassion—Jhamtse Gatsal, Jhamtse International and Jhamtse Switzerland.
Lobsang Phuntsok, the founder and director of this movement, shared with us the development of his vision for establishing what would become Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Community. This vision began during his time in Sera Je Monastery in south India, and started as just a home and school for disadvantaged children in his home region in northeast India, in a remote area near the borders with Bhutan and Chinese Tibet. After spending time in the US teaching the principles of love and compassion as understood in Tibetan Buddhism, Lobsang returned to his home area and began the practical work of establishing what has become Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Community.
As Lobsang visited villages in the area and talked with many families about the school he was starting, he came to realize that his vision of a school did not meet the needs or interests of many villagers. Especially in the remote villages, where he was trying to interest mostly illiterate parents, in sending children to the school, he was confronted with the big question “Why?” At first, he answered “So they will be able to have a better life.” (After all, in most of the villages there was no healthcare, little opportunity for education, and very limited opportunities for earning cash income.) But he found that many people were not really interested in education for their children. “What’s a better life? We have food, we have a place to live, we are happy here. Education is not so important. We want our children to have love and care, and to be safe.”
Many village children did not have love and care and protection, however, because of the loss or illness of parents who were simply unable to nurture them. Lobsang’s vision gradually evolved to the understanding that what was needed was a whole loving community where each child was nurtured and cared for with love and compassion by an entire staff–from housemothers (ama-las), to teachers, to cooks and the driver–that understood that loving kindness is a fundamental need of all human beings. And so Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Community came into being—a “garden of love and compassion for children.”
To spend time in this environment where all tasks are shared, and children eagerly rush to help with any task, transforms people like me who are lucky enough to be able to participate. Life is pretty basic here, in many ways, but love and joy are abundant.