Sambhota Primary School – Orphanage
No 29 – October 2016
Trip to Dzogchen
Last summer, a number of students of Patrul Rinpoche, the buddhist master who founded the school-orphanage in Dzogchen, once again traveled to Tibet for meditation retreats, and this was of course a long-awaited opportunity for the Tibetan and western responsibles of the school to meet each other on site, to size up the situation and review together the work at hand and the improvements to be realised: finding a new teacher of Chinese as soon as possible, waterproofing the dorm building, raising the annual budget…
These meetings were also an opportunity to highlight many positive things: every time students of the school-orphanage pass an entrance exam for institutes of secondary education in the region, they come out with exceptionally high marks and take first place. Most importantly, in spite of everyday worries, the children are all smiles and enthusiasm when questioned about ‘their’ school.
Our trip also enabled us to communicate more deeply with the principal teacher, Lekshe: a young man who commands respect and maintains firm discipline in his classroom. Sadly, the second teacher was absent during our stay.
School days start early with reciting and reading from 6 to 7, and teaching continues into the evening, interrupted only for meals and short breaks. The two groups are taught writing, grammar, poetry, and calligraphy, as well as buddhist texts promoting the values of compassion and helpfulness. Lekshe points out that his students have an energy all of their own: “Because they all come from families in great difficulty, these children show more courage and greater motivation to study than you see in other schools.”
But he is also aware of future challenges: to continuously improve the quality of education, to offer training as broad and complete as possible to provide students with as much knowledge and skills as possible with an eye to their futures.
Travel journal with the Dzogchen valley children
Clotilde went along on this trip and shares her impressions:
“Visiting Dzogchen in the summer of 2016, we could see with our own eyes the lives lead by the students we support. The children of Dzogchen are happy and proud to go to school, and they appreciate the benefits. Even though many of them take boarding at school, far from home, they are happy at heart to have the opportunity to study. As used to be case in Europe, the students show sincere admiration for their teachers.
In Tibet, it is much more valued to be of service than to be the best. The point is to become a good person rather than a brilliant one. These children do give it their all to perform and succeed, but only to benefit their families and society at large… There seems to be no desire to be the best, to show off achievement or cover up failure. As a result, the children have no difficulty teasing each other without anyone ever feeling offended. Whenever anyone fails at something, there is a burst of shared laughter and that is that. Failure actually has no air of humiliation about it, quite the opposite: they are rather amused by the fact that the actual outcome of their efforts is so different from what they were aiming for. It’s all a strange joke somehow! They feel encouraged to retry until they get things right.
Happy, spirited and smiling, they seem to do what needs to be done with a light heart and a mischievous mind, and continue like this into adulthood. Life seems a joyful game to Tibetans…
Our trip has left us with wonderful and precious memories of our time with the Dzogchen school children. We arrived sponsoring their education, and left again transformed, wishing well to the entire universe and beyond if that were possible.
What happiness it would be if future generations of youngsters in Dzogchen, in Tibet and anywhere around the world could develop more and more this open mind free from divisive competition and imbued with mutual help and goodwill. Now that even the sciences are starting to demonstrate the benefits of altruism for individuals and society as a whole, I find myself dreaming of a better world… Thank you, Tibet, thank you, children…”
(more testimonials in our spring issue!)
a heartfelt thank you to
- the teachers and students of the Weiler-la-Tour school,
- the Lions Amitié for their generous donation,
- the teachers of Walferdange who donated the proceedings of their school party,
- and Mr Jean Schmit, who has supported us throughout the years and whom we wish a happy retirement!