While New Zealanders fortunately enjoy many resources and facilities, people in India and Tibet have to get by with much, much less. The thought behind monk sponsorship is to provide for their basic necessities like clothing, food and study materials to monks who have no money but have a strong desire to study Buddhism full time. In India a little Western money goes a long way and every dollar makes a very substantial difference.
Drepung Monastic University in South India houses over 3,000 monks, from those very young just beginning their training to those who have attained the level of Geshe (Professor). Many are refugees from Tibet and have no individual means of support. Through the Tibetan Government in Exile, the monastery receives just enough money to provide sustanance. Funds for housing, medicine and teaching facilities are not covered. Therefore the monks rely on donations and sponsorships to maintain their studies and the monastery, and new monks arrive at Drepung Monastic University each year.
The study programme typical for a monk lasts all day, starting before dawn and not finishing until late at night, six days a week. The seventh day is reserved for chores and work around the monastery. This study programme is designed to train uneducated young men into learned and gentle scholars. It may take up to 20 years of intensive training to graduate and many of Tibet’s great scholar saints have come from this monastic tradition.
Very few monks can afford the costs of texts or study materials – the monastery library has copies of the basic texts, but without sponsorship, other study materials are usually unavailable. Monks share small rooms while toilet and bathing facilities are rudimentary; maintaining hygiene is difficult. This along with the rigorous study programme, the difficult life in South India, stress relating to their families living under refugee conditions and the great change of life from Tibet take a toll on many monks. Sicknesses such as TB and digestive disorders are common. Sponsorship is extremely helpful in alleviating these difficulties.
Sponsorship for a monk is generally $180 a year (about $3.50 a week) but whatever can be afforded is greatly appreciated. The money is collected by Trashi Gomang Centre, our sister centre in Auckland and is
sent to the monastery in the January and July of each year. The monastery sees that each sponsored monk receives his allocation while a separate fund gives a little to those who do not have sponsors. It is Trashi Ge Phel Ling’s policy to only sponsor monks studying and living at Drepung Monastic University, who are not already sponsored and who do not have other means of support.
Please contact Diane Lenihan, Auckland, New Zealand, 09 627 0444 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.