Dear Siddhartha Family,
It was 1985 when I first saw Leh, Ladakh, from the back of a lorry. It was a left turn that got me there, and it was night when I arrived. The jagged mountain outlines rose to unearthly heights against the starry sky. Weeks before, I’d no plan to go. I was an elementary school teacher, and for summer break, I was flying to Kashmir to meet my boyfriend, Gregg, who would later become my husband. Days before, someone gave me A Journey in Ladakh to read on the plane. It was a moving book, and when I saw how close Ladakh was to Kashmir, Gregg and I felt called to go.
Photos: (top) Khensur Rinpoche Lobzang Tsetan, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and Sara Crisp at Siddhartha School. (above) A starry Ladakh sky.
Being pre-internet, there was no googling the way. We trusted a rickety bus and local driver to bring us through the switchback mountain passes to Kargil. We also had ponies and a guide who saw us along the Zanskar River. to finally end up in Lamayuru. Ladakh has always remained magic for me. It offers an unexplainable vastness, austere beauty, and true cultural richness. The first trip began my deep appreciation for the region and its people.
Photo: (above) Sara stands with Siddhartha School students before the new dormitory inauguration.
Years later, a pamphlet about a monk from Ladakh landed in my hands. That message ultimately led me to a private home in Freeport, Maine, to hear Khensur Rinpoche teach and talk. I heard about Siddhartha School then, and by 2005, I’d joined the advisory council, which eventually led to being the US board president for close to five years.
Today, I’m writing to say I’m passing the presidency baton on to a most wonderful replacement, Sydney Young. It’s hard to know how to express my gratitude to all who have led the way. Each of you has been a stabilizing spoke in my Siddhartha wheel.
Photo: (above) Sara and her son (both in white) are given traditional white katak prayer scarves before leaving the school to fly back to the US.
First, I offer the deepest of thanks to Khensur Rinpoche, his generosity of spirit and teachings are invaluable. I thank all the school founders, the US and Ladakhi board members, the countless advisors, the vital donors, the helpful volunteers, and the deeply dedicated staff who steer and grow the minds of Ladakh’s next generation. It is truly a thousand-armed effort that has allowed not only the school to grow, but me as well. I’ve learned so much with you all, like how to live more fully, and love more deeply. I wonder how life would be if I hadn’t been shaped by all that is Siddhartha?
So today I am officially retired, and I enthusiastically announce that Sydney Young (pictured with Rinpoche) will be taking over as president. I can’t think of a better person in our midst to lead our new chapter. I trust her ethics completely and feel wholly confident in her abilities. I’m also excited by the energy our new executive director, Alex Stigliano, brings. The two are quite lovely adds to the partnership.
My dear Siddhartha School family and community, it has been an honor to serve among you, and this is not goodbye! I will be staying on the US board and watching all unfold.
I repeat the gratitude for each of you, and thank the flow of life for offering that left turn to Ladakh all those years ago; what can happen if we’re quiet enough to listen?!
In awe and gratitude,