Illuminating the Darkness—Celebrating Galden Namchot in Stok Village
“Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the Truth as a refuge.”– Buddha
Fourth grade Siddhartha School student Tsewang Otsal drew this portrait of the great Tibetan saint Tsongkhapa in a style reminiscent of Tibetan scroll paintings. Tsongkhapa is revered in Ladakh as the 14th century saint who founded the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism, and the formal affiliation of the Dalai Lamas.
As the nights grow longer and colder, I take comfort in the holiday lights that line the streets and decorate the houses of my small, Hudson Valley town. Whether they are strings of colored LEDs on a roof or elegant white tapered candles on a window sill, they flicker with reassurance that with some effort, light will prevail. I’m grateful for every Hanukah menorah, Christmas tree, Diwali lamp and Kwanzaa kinara I see.
The tradition of setting up lights in the winter months can be found many places, including Ladakh. Yesterday, Siddhartha School students, staff and family members decorated their homes, temples and businesses with traditional butter lamps, modern electric, and even solar powered lights. The occasion, Galden Namchot, is to honor the great 14th century saint Tsongkhapa, founder of the largest sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Each year this holiday falls on the 25th lunar day of the tenth month in the Tibetan calendar. It marks Tsongkhapa’s birth, death, and enlightenment.
The children like Tsewang Otsal, who drew Tsongkhapa as this week’s Siddhartha School hero, look forward to the day as a family time. School is out for the winter, the houses are cleaned and decorated, rows upon rows of butter lamps are lit with prayers for all living beings to be happy, joyous and freefrom ignorance, suffering and its causes.
All over Stok village rows of butter lamps are burning brightly. Tsongkhapa was known as a rigorous scholar and the founder of an equally rigorous monastic lineage that is presided over by the Dalai Lamas. In this rare footage from 1958, prior to the His Holiness’ escape to India you can watch him visit Tsongkhapa’s tomb outside of Lhasa before undergoing his own Geshe degree examination.
Click on the above video to watch the young Dalai Lama visit Tsongkhapa’s tomb during Galden Namchot and undergo his own geshe degree examination.
We congratulate the graduating 10th grade class of Siddhartha School, and wish them luck with their state examinations. Usually the testing happens in November, but after the floods in the region earlier this year, all Jammu and Kashmir state exams were postponed. We know they will do well and wish them the best of success in their future plans.
Thank you for your continued supoort for the Siddhartha School. Like a row of lights brightening the night sky, you help illuminate a path for Ladakhi children to get a rich education that honors their beautiful traditions as it helps prepare them to succeed in a rapidly changing world.
With deep appreciation for all that you do to help,
Siddhartha School Project
News on the #OurSSP Campaign:
There is still time to make a gift count for the 2014 tax year.
If you haven’t yet contributed to the campaign, it’s not too late. We’d like to keep up the momentum and raise another $11,000 before year end for additional improvements to the student computer lab. Our goal is within reach!
Make your year end, tax deductible gift in any amount to the Siddhartha School Project’s annual fund today:
To donate by check, please make it payable to the Siddhartha School Project, PO Box 524 • Freeport, ME 04032. To donate by stock or wire transfer, please email Laura Kozaitis for assistance. Thank you so much!
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