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Siddhartha School’s Black Hat Hero, Updates on Construction Improvements And Much More Inside

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

— C.S. Lewis

This remarkable painting by the 8th grade Siddhartha School student Stanzin Sherap portrays Lha Lhung Pal Ki Dorje, who in the 9th century, killed Tibet’s vicious anti-Buddhist ruler Lang Dharma. You can read more about Lang Dharma and Lha Lhung Pal Ki Dorje’s here.

Dear Friends,

We have so much good news to report it is hard to know where to begin and when to end. I’m convinced it is because of the great circle of giving and receiving happening between our students and their sponsors, volunteers, teachers, and the powerful example of service we are exemplifying in all aspects of our project to make Siddhartha School a superior educational experience for the children of Ladakh.

We have a very encouraging construction update in this issue of our newsletter, thanks to the spring thaw in Ladakh and your continued generosity. We have also established two new scholarship awards for graduating students thanks to generous gifts from John Sparling and the family of Miriam Gruenwald. The spirit of service and giving is manifest among these distinguished graduates, who are helping their classmates as volunteer tutors and leading the children in the school’s drive for Nepal relief.

We have a very encouraging construction update in this issue of our newsletter, thanks to the spring thaw in Ladakh and your continued generosity. We have also established two new scholarship awards for graduating students thanks to generous gifts from John Sparling and the family of Miriam Gruenwald. The spirit of service and giving is manifest among these distinguished graduates, who are helping their classmates as volunteer tutors and leading the children in the school’s drive for Nepal relief.

Over the past year we have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a hero, and the children have been sharing their portraits and reflections with you. We are delighted to report that their artwork, as well as their sister schools’—Minnequa Elementary School in Pueblo City, Colorado and Rockland Country Day School in Congers New York—will be the focal point of a July showing at the amazing Lower East Side Girls Club Gallery in Manhattan, NY. Details will follow in future updates. Plans are in the works to take the show to Ladakh in September and then to Pueblo City at the year’s end.

Exhibitions abound for Siddhartha School, and at this moment our Siddhartha School children have just completed their own curated exhibition of Ladakhi culture at the Stok Palace Museum in Stok Village. The show was a smashing success thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of Augusta Thomson, Siddhartha School’s Fulbright-Nehru Fellow in residence, who led the children to this fabulously creative and educational experience.

Siddhartha School’s local board member Tsering Angdu deserves a special round of applause for arranging the historic venue through the great kindness of the king and queen of Ladakh. Siddhartha School teachers and staff found the program to be uplifting and educational for the entire community and are themselves inspired to try new approaches with the children as they examine Ladakhi history, culture, and questions of identity. Augusta is preparing a special report about her work with the children and Stok Palace exhibition for our readers. Expect it to arrive in your inbox very soon.

“I will never give up, whatever hindrance comes my way. I will always keep moving forward. My parents are really thankful to you guys and we will never forget your kind deeds.”

–Stanzin Sherab in a letter to his American Sponsor, Ben Abbott of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Perhaps the defining trait of our children’s heroes is their courage to act on their values and virtues. Rather than remaining passive or silent, Siddhartha School’s heroes step up and take action to make the world a better place. The people the students have portrayed in paint and pencil have been historic, mythic, imaginary, famous, or anonymous. They are Indian, Tibetan, American, Brazilian, British, Albanian, and more. They are often human and sometimes animals, gods, and even plants. And for children like Stanzin Sherab, who drew the gorgeous portrait above, courage and inspiration is found in an ancient story and the letters from his own sponsor, Ben Abbott.

Thanks to each one of you for all that you do to make Siddhartha School shine. We are doing exciting work together, and every time you share this news with a friend or colleague we move forward and sow new seeds of opportunity.

With heartfelt gratitude,

Laura Kozaitis
Executive Director
Siddhartha School Project
laura.kozaitis@ourssp.org

Help us keep Siddhartha School affordable for local families. Give to our Annual Fund for Tuition Aid.

Our most financially challenged students are sponsored in full through your kind support, and still others depend on our gifts to keep tuition affordable and in line with their incomes.

You can make a secure, online, tax deductible gift in any amount. Or, consider sponsoring a child’s tuition for less than a dollar a day. Please give what you can.

All gifts are tax deductible and make a significant impact on improving the lives and future opportunities for the children we serve.

Siddhartha School children feeling good about their collection to help Nepal.

Siddhartha School Children Organize to Help the Nepal Relief Effort—An Update

When you were in school, did you ever collect money in your neighborhood for a charity? Siddhartha School children put their values to the in recent weeks by taking up a collection for the children of Nepal. They went door to door in their villages and among the shops of Leh, appealing to the community to act with generosity and compassion for people a country away.

I myself can vividly recall bringing a UNICEF box door to door to get money for children that existed in some far away place without enough food, shelter, and schooling.

Everyone has something to give, Khen Rinpoche likes to remind his friends and students. It is so important to act on this truth, not to bring home the biggest collection, but to put our compassion to the test with real action. Five hundred dollars may not be a lot by global standards, but it is a lot of money for Stok village and it was given with great love.

The children went with Madam Dhasey, their English teacher, and Sir Susheel, our school accountant to deliver the collection to Mr. Bill Kite, Stok resident and Coordinator for the Himalayan Health Project. Many of you will recall that Mr. Kite’s teams has brought much needed dental and vision care to our children through annual visits to our school. It is his commitment to Ladakhi youth that inspired our own graduates, Tsewang Chuskit and Stanzin Angmo to intern with his clinic and medical camps. Mr. Kite is organizing teams of his workers, many of whom are Nepali, to take tarps, blankets, and water purification tablets to families in need, with an eye toward reaching remote villages.

“Mr. Kite and his team are touched by the thoughtfulness of our Siddhartha School students to think of Nepal and act on their concern with a donation drive. The children feel good about this work and are proud of the fact that even though they are small they could do something to help other children in need.”

—Tenzin Dhasey, Siddhartha School English Teacher

Khen Rinpoche and the entire Siddhartha School Project Board are deeply touched by the activism of the Siddhartha School children. Through their hard work canvassing the community, they helped bring 125 large tarpaulins and 75 small tarpaulins to four remote Nepali villages in need. What is more, a Siddhartha School Project US donor triple matched the children’s contribution to make the collective total contribution from Siddhartha School total $2,000 USD.

It takes courage to go into the devastation to help. We salute Mr. Kite and his trekking team of Nepali sherpas for undertaking this challenging, necessary work to restore Nepal.

Great Improvements Being Made: 2014 GivingTuesday Campaign Funds In Action for School Building Improvements

As SSP Board President Gary Jones likes to say, “From people to whom much is given, much is expected.” Through your ongoing charitable contributions, the Siddhartha School community has been given a lot. Thank you to all of our supporters for making needed improvements to the campus possible, and enhancing the quality of life for our students. Here is the latest news on these vital improvements:

  • Boys’ and Girls’ Washrooms are under construction and are slated for completion at the end of June. Two buildings, one behind the nursery and the other at the back of our main classroom building, will have local and Western style toilets (see above photos for progress).
  • The main water lines are complete at Siddhartha School, and water is now running to the school along 3 channels (kitchen, washrooms, and irrigation respectively). Pipe lines have been laid and covered (see irrigation of new saplings and shots of pipeline cover above). We are awaiting a transformer to provide power for the electric pump, but have back up generator capability in the meantime.
  • The flooring of the main stage was repaired and refinished.The stage, which faces the main courtyard, was in dire need of repair. This is a focal point for the school, where morning assembly, prayers, and calisthenics take place. Geshe Tsewang saw to it that the floor was redone (see photo of children eating on the new floor, and the new steps leading up to the stage). Ms. Dhasey, our US liaison is delighted to share that this improvement has an added benefit, functioning as a shaded, clean place for the children to now eat their lunch without sitting in the dirt.
  • Steps leading up to the Main Office have been redone. The steps leading up to the main office were weak and crumbling, and are smooth and safely restored (see bottom right photo, above).
  • An upstairs room is being added to the youth hostel for additional staff accommodations and a study hall for tutoring, worship, and related activities (see above photo). Geshe Tsewang has appointed Genley Yourtung, the school Bodhi teacher and another monk to reside in the new space and help care for the boarding students and supervise their studies and activities.
  • Ground is being prepared for the new computer lab. Construction is slated for completion in mid-August, as workers complete the bathroom project, they will move on to building this exciting addition, to be located near the office, (see above photo). Computer laptops are being purchased in Delhi for our new space with negotiations underway for deep education discounts.

Siddhartha School Project Supporters Establish Fellowship Awards to Honor Distinguished Graduates

The Khen Rinpoche Fellowship for Engaged Student Life is a special honor bestowed on a graduating senior to support work at the Siddhartha School from March-August on school enrichment projects designed in collaboration with the school Principal and Head Teacher. It is our conviction that by encouraging a graduating student to serve the school through community building projects of his or her own design, we will honor Khen Rinpoche’s vision and provide satisfying, innovative opportunities to seniors as they search for meaning at a critical juncture in their lives. This fellowship award of $2000 USD (Rs. 120,000) is underwritten by a generous gift from John Sparling, who’s compassionate commitment to suicide prevention among young people drives his own work in the arts and music.

This year’s Khen Ripoche Fellowship has been awarded to senior student Stanzin Norbu for his exemplary leadership in school activities and strong academic standing.

Stanzin Norbu (pictured above delivering a prayer for Khen Rinpoche at Founder’s Day), is the kind of student who Lisa Blake (SSP volunteer and former board member) describes as never calling attention to himself.

“He is a reserved young man who watches, looks, and listens carefully. Always polite and courteous he cares about quality and applies himself to a standard of excellence in a manner true to his nature. Always thoughtful before replying in the classroom, friendly with his peers, and an excellent role model to all students. Congratulations to a fine and deserving student.”

–Lisa Blake, SSP Key Volunteer

The Stanzin Angmo and Tsewang Chuskit Fellowship for Academic Excellence and Professional Promise is given to a graduating senior for outstanding academic work coupled with a genuine desire to make Ladakh a better place for future generations of young people. Candidates are selected by distinguished alumni in November of each year, after an evaluation of a candidate’s academic standing and, most importantly, of an essay detailing what they will do for Siddhartha School through volunteer service upon graduation and for Ladakh in the coming years in their professional lives. This fellowship award of f $2000 USD (Rs. 120,000) is underwritten by a generous gift in memory of Miriam Gruenwald, who so admired the determination of recent Siddhartha School graduates, Tsewang Chuskit and Stanzin Angmo to set high academic goals, to give back to the school through volunteer service, and to aspire to serve Ladakh in their future careers.

This year’s fellowship is awarded to senior student Disket Chorol, for her distinguished academic career and exemplary commitment to beautifying and serving the Siddhartha School community.

Diskit Chorol, pictured above representing Siddhartha School in a classical debate demonstration for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Choglamsar.

“I first met Diskit ten years ago, when she expressed an interest in learning English and in helping to work on the Zero Trash Initiative that we had begun. She was very keen and interested to learn, help, and lead in our efforts to bring Stok back to its pristine beauty. She’s a natural leader, helping to organize the younger students in the group with the appropriate helpers.”

—Lisa Blake

Diskit is an outstanding graduate of class 10, and was awarded her scholarship based on her academic merit and dedication to serving the Siddhartha School community through volunteer service from March through August of this year. She is helping Ms. Dhasey with sponsorship record keeping and tutoring students in need of extra help.

Join us in applauding Stanzin Norbu and Diskit Chorol for their hard work and dedication to the Siddhartha School as young leaders and rising stars in their community. You can send Norbu and Disket a congratulatory email here, via Tenzin Dhasey our school sponsorship liaison.

The Great Tibetan Buddhist Hero Lha Lung Pal Ki Dorje and the Black Hat Dance

Tibetan Buddhist monks perform a black hat dance during Monlam or the Great Prayer rituals on March 4, 2015 at the Labrang Monastery, Xiahe County, Amdo, Tibet. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

This week, we get a glimpse into the heroic character of a legendary Buddhist assassin. And while the mere idea of this may seem oxymoronic, the story of Lha Lung Pal Ki Dorje, a 9th century Buddhist practitioner, lays bare his fierce courage to sacrifice his own life and, perhaps, future karma for the religious freedom of the Tibetan people.

Lha Lung Pal Ki Dorje was both a devout Buddhist disciple and the calculated killer of Tibet’s 9th century King Lang Dharma, a fierce persecutor of Tibet’s emerging Buddhist population. According to popular accounts, as King Lang Dharma’s anti-Buddhist campaign drove many monks westward, many found safe haven in Ladakh. Those Buddhists who remained in Tibet went underground, and as the situation became more grave, Lha Lung’s faith and courage were put to a dramatic test.

Lha Lung Pal went to Lhasa wearing a black hat and long cloak in which he concealed a bow and arrow. There he danced in front of the King in an attempt to portray the suffering of the people under his rule.

The evil King did not notice him retrieving a bow and arrow from his long sleeves. When he took his shot, pandemonium broke out and Lha Lhung Pal took off for the river. Crossing it with a horse painted black with soot, the animal was washed clean and white. Then Stanzin’s hero reversed his robe, so the white lining faced out, and the black cover was turned in. The king’s men were outwitted, as they rode past him searching for a black figure on a dark horse, not a man in white.

Did Stanzin Sherap’s hero believe that there would be karmic consequences for taking a human life? As a devout Buddhist, it is likely Lha Lung Pal Ki Dorje took up this dangerous and dreadful deed as a personal sacrifice, accepting these karmic consequences for the greater good of Tibetan Buddhist society. To this day the Sha-Nak (Black Hat Dance) reenacts his story.

Noted for its wide-sleeved robes and ornate three-foot headpieces with wide brims, this dance serves a variety of purposes, depending on the context in which it is shown. Within the Mahakala festival held annually at Tashi Jong, for example, the Sha-Nak is performed by 21 monks as a day-long preparatory dance to “clear the ground, meaning “dispelling obstacles and bringing auspiciousness” to the two weeks of ritual activity to follow.

You can watch the Black Hat Dance below, as performed by the talented Gang Jong Dhoegar Dance Troop:

Support the great strides our students are making to do their very best and serve their communities. Help us keep Siddhartha School affordable for local families. Give to our Annual Fund for Tuition Aid.

Our most financially challenged students are sponsored in full through your kind support, and still others depend on our gifts to keep tuition affordable and in line with their incomes.

You can make a secure, online, tax deductible gift in any amount. Or, consider sponsoring a child’s tuition for less than a dollar a day. Please give what you can.

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