Taking the different road

Five Sherubtse College graduates find happiness in monkhood

As the early morning rays of the sun slice through the traditional windows of the Kanglung shedra, leaving slabs of light on the prayer hall, monks in maroon robes pore over Buddhist texts, reciting the verses in a low, monotonous drone.

A strong scent of incense emanates from the altar but the monks are focused, an expression of serenity on their faces.

Most times, children of economically disadvantaged families join monkhood as their parents cannot afford higher education or children from less affluent families do so to reduce the financial burden on their parents.

However, five male graduates from Sherubtse College have joined the shedra so far, deciding that detaching from the world is the way for them.

They have decided to be monks till the end.

In spite of the difficulties in following the monks’ code and conduct, which is vastly different from nominal school, they are happy because they feel they have found their calling.

Lhakpa Tshering, a 23-year-old graduate turned monk shared that it is tough to memorize, write and follow the monk’s code and conduct.

Lhakpa Tshering joined Kanglung shedra last year after graduation.

He never planned to become a monk but he felt attracted to the idea so defying everything, he took the leap forward.

“It was neither my ambition nor my parents’ decision,” he said, “I am accruing more wisdom and knowledge about Buddha’s teachings as a monk.”

All the graduates turned monks share the common desire to get knowledge on the Buddhist texts and later share them.

Lhakpa Tshering said that he does not regret becoming a monk. “I can confidently say that I don’t regret being a monk instead I feel blessed and happy.”

Additionally, he pointed out that the difference between monks and ordinary people is that the former are always engaged in deeds like praying and studying, which causes them to harm sentient beings less but an ordinary person cannot focus his energies on praying and studying the Buddha’s teachings due to many distractions.

Another said he decided to become a monk because he wanted to change himself into a better person. “I also feel that once we are born as human beings, we have to do something for the benefit of other sentient beings and monkhood gives us ample opportunity to do so.”

According to Lhakpa Tshering, some people criticized him for becoming a monk because they thought he was wasting his education but for him, it is a way to keep the Buddha’s legacy alive.

“I think being a monk, we accumulate comparatively higher merit and there is a different kind of satisfaction that we get as a part of the monk body.”

As the prayers finish, the graduate monks get up, ready to go about their daily chores, even as they harbor a sense of deep contentment that only true altruism can produce.

Jigme Wangchen from Kanglung, Trashigang