Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Right Education and Right attitude - Advice from Khenchen Samdrup

The head principal, Khenchen Samdrup of Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro Institute (DKCLI), Chauntra, Himachal Pradesh, in India visited Chokyi Gyatso Institute (CGI), Dewathang from October 24th – 28th, 2017 to observe and study the implementation of Lhomon Education (LME) - program content and approach - how classroom materials are designed, developed, and delivered.
We invited Khenchen to LME class and requested him to give advice for LME students and teachers about the importance of education. It was indeed insightful for teachers and students to listen to his precious advice. Following are excerpts from Khenchen’s talk.

Khenchen Samdrup and Khenchen Sonam Tashi 
You living in Bhutan are Mahayana and Vajrayana followers. In essence, it means that our concerns and deeds must be for the benefit of all sentient beings and their liberation ultimately. That is why we have the basic responsibility to help and benefit others. We should be able to help our small communities, the whole village, the entire nation, and the world at large. Even if we cannot help others, we should not harm at the least. Therefore, education has a very important role to inculcate the habit of helping and benefiting others.
Khenchen talking to students and teachers
For example, a bird has two wings, so that they can fly high. For us humans, one of two wings is an education, and the other one is a right attitude. Education by itself does not make a good person. We need the right attitude. The right attitude with the support of education enables us to help others. It is obvious that the high qualification alone of a person cannot benefit others without the foundation of right attitude.
There is a saying that, a stupid person can make a mistake of an inch, but an educated person can make a mistake of a meter. What it means is that an educated person with the wrong attitude can destroy the whole community and society, while a stupid person with the wrong attitude can destroy only a small family or a small community. Therefore, right education that fosters kindness, compassion, right intention, and the right attitude are necessary to be able to help and benefit others and self. 
Khenchen, LME teachers, and students 
Whether it be spiritual or secular education, the focus should be to make a person decent, good human being, so that, he or she not only help one-self but others in his or her immediate communities, the nation, and eventually the whole world. 
We have His Holiness Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, a great leader and a master, whose activities are for the benefit of all beings all over the world. We have to cherish his profound activities and follow his footsteps.

Lopon Tshering, translating Khenchen's talk t
Now, you are fortunate to study under LME that believes in educating a person to be good, decent human being. I advise you not to waste your time, energy, and this great opportunity. Take this opportunity seriously, so that you will accomplish the goodwill and wisdom which will benefit not only for yourself but the rest, whom you will have the influence on. And also that you will cherish about yourself when you grow old and not regret.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Why an elephant has breast, not an undder? --- A story from an elder

What a local elder has to say about the location of elephant's breast? Usually, many quadrupeds have their udders located in between their back limbs; however, this is not true to the elephant. The female elephant breast is located on its chest like we human. Here is a story retold by an elder man, meme Sherab, 80 from Bangtsho, Dewathang about the location of elephant's breast.
Once, there lived a hunter. Every day, he hunts and offers meat on his shrine in a bamboo container. One day as usual, when he returned back from the forest, he found his room well cleaned and arranged. He was astonished to see his room condition and wondered, who uninvited guest, could have visited him. Next day, as usual, he went off to hunt. Right after the sunset in the evening, when he returned home, it was another surprise. His mud stove was on fire with a crowd of dried firewood gathered through the stove mouth. He wondered again, who could have made a fire in his stove. On the third day, when he came back from the jungle, he found delicious meals cooked, ready for him to feed on. This time, he definitely suspected that there is somebody, doing all these works in his absence.
He had an idea! Next morning, he pretended to go off for a hunt but, he came back to watch what was going on in his house. As he watched from behind the bush, a beautiful woman emerged out of a bamboo offering container, which was kept on the shrine. She uncovered herself from a skin and immediately started to work in his kitchen. Without delay, the hunter ran as quickly as possible closer to skin shedded, he grabbed her skin and was about to burn it in the fire. The woman shouted, don’t burn it! Throw some part of it up in the ceiling, some of it down on the ground, and some under the house. The hunter followed her instruction. Instantly, the part of the skin on the ceiling turned into seeds, the part on the ground turned into kitchen utensils, and the part under the house turned into animals. After that, the hunter and the beautiful woman eventually got married and lived happily together for many years.
One day, the couple had quarrel out of some misunderstandings. The hunter scolded his wife. He said, ‘‘you are a woman, who is transformed out of animal flesh''. The statement deeply disappointed her. She felt so embarrassed and sad. She walked far-far away from their house and never returned home. The hunter worried as the wife did not return home. He came out looking for her in the forest. Far in the forest, he saw his wife’s cloth lying on the ground and herself transformed into an elephant. The hunter with deep regret returned home alone.

Meme Sherab said ‘‘this is why female elephants (cows) have their breasts on the chest like we humans do.’’

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The legendary Tshongpon Norbu Zangpo and his riding Rhino

Meme Sherab 84, a resident of Bangtsho, Dewathang, narrated the following story for LME students on his visit as a guest speaker to the class. Besides, he talked about barter system, which existed as a common practice of trading within a small village and across wider communities then. Moreover, he shared, that the trade was not only with the exchange of goods, but also services on day to day basis.


Once, the Rhinosaur was believed to be merchant Norbu Zangpo’s riding animal when he travelled for his business in India and Tibet through Bhutan.
One of the routes merchant Zangpo took was via Dewathang to Assam in India. Consequently, today a tall and big tree growing right at the beginning of Dewathang town is his legacy, believed to be from his walking stick and few meters away, is his cooking stove, the tri-stone in a circle.
Those days, all the merchants from Bhutan and Tibet, who took the route, circumambulate the tree and the stove as a sign of respect and devotion for merchant Zangpo. Even to these days, the residents of the town look after the area and offer incense often.
It was believed that one day, as the merchant travelled for his regular business, his riding animal fled away to Manas, the South Central foothills of Bhutan. So, the merchant Zangpo became very angry. Subsequently, it was believed, that he subdued the Rhino and prohibited its entrance to the South East of Bhutan. That is why today, we don’t see any Rhino in the south-east region of Bhutan.
Meme Sherab has asked us to closely study the skin pattern of Rhino. The saddle, which was used by Zangpo on Rhino then, can be seen these days on its skin pattern. It was believed, that the Rhino fled away with the saddle on its back.  

Friday, September 8, 2017

Japanese monks are usually good in paintings. They practiced painting not to become famous artists but to build focus and gain concentration skills.  They found drawing and painting to be one of the best medium to get to higher levels of concentration. These days, especially teachers try every means to gain student’s attention in the classrooms.  One way could be indulging students in art activities that will bring in educational and personal benefits in long run. 
So to bring art as an important aspect of LME curriculum Dr. Yang Gyeltshen, a lead teacher has recently visited Trashiyangtse Zorig Chosum Institute to interact with Zorig Instructors and collect relevant materials for the development of LME curriculum Unit on Art and Culture. 







Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Forty-one monks of the Chokyi Gyatso Buddhist Institute in Dewathang, Samdrup Jongkhar, are taking part in organic gardening classes that aspire to teach sustainable nurturing of soil through practical activities.
The Organic Gardening class is part of Lhomon Education’s curriculum to provide opportunity to learn the basics of livelihood and give hands on experience.
Lhomon Education (LME) is a grassroots initiative to foster the development of innovative curricula designed specifically for Bhutanese students to integrate principles of Gross National Happiness effectively and practically.
Lhomon Society is helping teachers to create unique GNH-based curricula for use in a variety of educational environments.
Lhomon Education currently is a pilot program.
“Among many practical and concrete manifestations of GNH vision, the use of vegetable gardens is important to teach key dimensions of the science curriculum,” said Dawa, who is a resident teacher at the Buddhist Institute. “They learn about the elements necessary for healthy soil and ways of growing healthy food products without the use of chemical fertilizers.”
The Institute has created a garden to promote organic gardening and instill in the young minds the Bhutanese farming traditions, and its role, in the long run, to achieve food security and self-sufficiency in the country.

“The study guides the students toward a genuine and heartfelt stewardship of the earth and impart in them a deeper understanding of the interconnection and interdependence law of nature through practical means and not just through the books,” said Dawa. “Making their own composts using green and dry leaves, cow dung and urine functions as a means of teaching science, cultural history and literature, and other GNH principles and values which they’ll learn to uphold in the process.”
The students learn the basic aspects of organic gardening as part of their lessons, which is taught by a local farmer. The students engaged in the activity are encouraged to develop team work and cooperation rather than going for competition among their groups.
Dawa said that the students are their own architects in the garden, shaping their own beds, calculating, measuring, and designing them in whatever way they desire. He said the depth, width and the line that they keep track of while sowing seeds are an estimation and mathematical concept in itself.
“I prefer working in the garden as compared to sitting in the class than to just listening to the organic gardening from my teachers,” said 14-year-old monk Sonam Wangchuk. “I get to work with my friends as a team. Besides, I’ve learned to make compost and garbage enzyme. I also learned to do measurements for the compost shelter. I like practical gardening work.”
The smiles and satisfactions on the students’ face during the harvest period indicate their own appreciation of the hard work and hands on learning experience that is taking place.
Lhomon Education plans to encourage and educate the community and schools around to take up organic gardening by teaching them methods of composting and other related organic practices.


By Sonam Yangdon, a journalist; TheBhutanese  









































Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Community Service

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  Mother Teresa
On the 21st of May, more than 100 students from Lhomon Education, Jigme Namgyel Engineering College and staff of Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative took part in collecting pebbles at Rekhey community.
The volunteer service started with the recitation of karma yoga prayer. The Karma Yoga is a practice to apply the supreme methods for refining our intentions and motivations to carry out any service selflessly for the greater benefit of all sentient beings. The volunteer group was briefed to perform the task as sincerely as possible with right mindset to accumulate merit and positive energy. The volunteer service has been a very much part of LME students to inculcate a sense of responsibility for the community and also to practice selflessness through karma yoga. It is also to provide oppourtunity for students to take up leadership role and to inspire other people that an individual can make a responsible difference in our community.

It was a tiring, yet satisfactory and fulfilling day in the service of our community.





Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A poem about wind --- Written by Senior LME students

The wind that blows from the south
We can’t see it but can feel it

The wind that blows from the south
Is a gentle and calm breeze

The wind that blows from the south
Goes into our ears and noses

The wind that blows from the south
Makes happy with cool and fresh feel


The wind that blows from the south
Carries chirping of birds 


The wind that blows from the south
Makes tall bamboo and tree dance


The wind that blows from the south
Helps bamboo leaves flutter and whistle



The wind that blows from the south
Makes white clouds move in the sky


The wind that blows from the south
Blows away dry and brown leaves

The wind that blows from the south
Makes dragonfly and butterfly hover on it wings


The wind that blows from the south
Makes a black eagle float on its wide wing  




Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Bow Drill

How can one possibly make a fire in a situation where there is no fire ignition tool?  What if one is gone missing in a jungle where there is no settlement. Imagine how you would react to this situation where there is no matchstick or lighter? This situation is difficult for those who have not heard of ancient ways of making fire, however, it is not challenging for those who have little understanding of friction and its practical application in igniting fire during ancient time.
Making fire using scientific knowledge of friction may seem classical and not so fashionable these days, nevertheless, it is essentially an inherited wisdom that our humanity has survived and succeeded through many generations using it. In fact, we have to cherish this age old tradition that endured generations after generations.
To upkeep traditional and cultural practices intact, Lho Mon Education taught a lesson on how to make fire using a bow drill. The fire was very important paraphernalia for the survival of early people. Deprived of effortless modern tools those days, people had to come up with simple devices to help make fire easily. Bow drill is a simple machine to make fire rubbing two pieces of wood together. It is made using bamboo, wood, branches and string. The tool generates heat after vigorously rubbing and produces fire ember from which fire is lit. We also need some dry grasses and sawdust to turn fire ember into the flame. There are specific soft woods found in our locality (Dewathang) that were used particularly for this purpose, such as phrangshing (a soft local tree) and khartong mancha (special stone).
For students, it was fun trying to rub with their last muscle strength and often break into laughter with a fume of smoke from the tool. With patience and repeated effort, it was a fascinating moment for them to witness fire ember and finally make fire using dry grasses. The experience was not only learning how to make fire but it was a practical demo of how friction leads to fire and understand how early people had to take hardship.

This art of making fire may not be completely useful in present day especially in an era of abundant light equipment, however, it connects previous generations’ cultural practices to the present generation.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Farm as a classroom

Schools provide space for creative thinking and learning wholesome and healthy growth of our children, who are always inquisitive. Schools help children find meaning of their lives and prepare them to live their lives well as good human beings. Students are not in schools just to follow the mundane daily routine of completing the syllabus and passing the exams. Schools help children to find joy in knowing about and exploring the world - simple things like source of water, food, plastics, etc. Students learn through gradual exposure to external world and by connecting the inner self with the outside world. Students learn by doing things themselves.

Here with Lhomon Education (LME), we provide students the opportunity to learn and prepare themselves for their lives and to fulfil their daily needs through practical hands on experience. LME endeavours to make learning joyful to its students.
One of the activities carried out by the students is organic garden, through which we strive to close the gap between knowledge and practical aspect of learning. The garden becomes the classroom. Students make compost; terrace the land and plant vegetables. It is part of their lesson and taught by a local farmer, who does not have a teaching degree. Instead of competition, cooperation and team work amongst students is encouraged. Harvesting vegetables from their garden is a matter of great joy and satisfaction for the students. Learning is taking place simultaneously.
When I was student, we had to do agriculture every Saturday. We did not learn anything from it as we were all focused on production since it was a competition between houses and classes. Learning on the farm and from a farmer was unthinkable then. We must be reminded that students learn more when they are able to connect with the external world, otherwise what they are taught in class remains abstract and irrelevant. And in LME, students enjoy gardening and they do not focus on production. And, I learn more here than during my sixteen years of schooling.  






Monday, January 2, 2017

Small steps towards building mindful schools & communities

The 7 day mindfulness camp held at Chokyi Gyatso Institute Dewathang ended on 26th December, 2016. Its content included meditation, mindful offering of butter lamps, selection of local agriculture produced, waste minimization, cooking, eating & walking, karma yoga (work as practice) & sharing of experiences. SJI as mindful choices, universal human values as a skilful means (by Director, JNEC) & contemplative education (by Dr. Yang Gyeltshen, LME lead teacher) as being integral to mindful teaching-learning were also presented at the camp. Post camp school activities & experiences were shared by the participants of the 2nd camp. The participants proposed about 25 activities, which could possibly be implemented in schools. A platform for continued dialogue among participants, participants-SJI-CGI, etc. has been created.
The camp was resourced by Yangsid Drubgyud Tenzin. There were 43 camp attendees: 22 teachers, 9 lopens from CGI, 3 civil servants, 3 youth from Menchari village (GNH model village) & 6 from SJI. The camp is integral to SJI's education program (LME) conducted annually, primarily targeted for educators. Three camps have been conducted till date with over 100 attendees.
Alongside the camp, SJI focused on waste minimization and served only locally available produce. The 7 day camp produced only few plastic wastes like the wrappers of salt, sugar and atta flour. Compiling with mindfulness practice, the only waste generated in the kitchen of the mindfulness camp was 5 salt packets, 2 sugar packets and 4 packets of atta flour. In other words, only 11 plastics in 7 days. Even if we measure it will come around 150 gram only. If it was not prepared mindfully it would have produced tons of waste in a week which is against the philosophy of SJI and of course against GNH. The meals were all organic and nutritious.