Gaden Shartse Monastic College is situated amid lush green hills and jungle in the remote countryside of southern India. It was founded in 1969 as an effort to re-establish one of the great monastic traditions of Tibet. A small group of elder monks and fifteen young boys, all of whom had managed to escape the destruction in Tibet, settled on land given to them by the Indian government in Mundgod, Karnataka.
Today the college is at the forefront of the revival of Tibetan Monastic education, with more than 1600 resident students, teachers, scholars, and spiritual practitioners. More than 70% of the members are between the ages of 10 and 25 and 80% of these were born in Tibet. To this day, young monks arrive at the Monastery weekly from Tibet, seeking shelter and education. Due to the success of the academic program and the quality of the teachers at the monastery, Gaden Shartse has established a reputation as being the leader in the field of Buddhist and Tibetan studies.
Brief History of Buddhism in Tibet
and the Effect of the Chinese
By the beginning of the 7th century
Tibet was filled with fragmented tribal,
war‑loving people. When Tsong Tsen
Gampo (617‑693AD) became the ruler
of Tibet, he imported the philosophical
tradition of Buddhism, which had been
flourishing in India for centuries.
His successor, Trisung Detsen, then made
it the official religion.
The once‑violent nation of Tibet became transformed by this new appreciation for the depth and true worth of human life. It was evolutionary. Tibet became one of the finest civilizations the world has ever seen. It became a nation of people filled with patience, tolerance, generosity, love for learning, and loving‑kindness. Monasteries and learning centers sprang up across the country, and the Buddhist values of compassion and wisdom infused the people of Tibet.
Sadly, this unique, one‑of‑a‑kind, beautiful civilization was destroyed in 1959 by the invasion of China. The Chinese Cultural Revolution took the lives of more than 1.2 million Tibetans between the years of 1959 and 1972. 6000 centers of Tibetan culture and religion were destroyed. As a result, Tibetans continue to this day to seek‑refuge across the globe.
History of Gaden Shartse Monastic College
Gaden Shartse Monastic College (popularly known as "Shartse") was originally founded in Tibet in the 15th century.
After the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese in 1949, 48 surviving members of the College fled south across the border into India. There they settled in army tents in a remote jungle area that was about a night's journey from the city of Mysore. Slowly they built a mud and bamboo thatched dwelling in which the monks ate, slept, studied, debated, and prayed together. Many died from sickness and exhaustion; others survived but remained ill and bedridden. Those who survived became very resourceful, teaching themselves how to farm the land by means of trial and error. In 1972, three years after settling, their fields were green with their first successful crops. Fifteen Tibetan children from the local Tibetan refugee camp enrolled in the newly founded monastery, funded by the selling of the produce. A simple everyday routine was set up, combining education with physical labor. A rudimentary teaching staff of Tibetans, well‑versed in history and Buddhist teachings, was established.
In‑depth education in all aspects of Buddhist philosophy and practice is the focal point of the academic program at Shartse. The duration of the monastic program is 24 years. The students interact with their teachers on a daily basis. Accommodation, food, and instruction are all free and are provided by the monastic administration. Shartse offers complete basic courses in Tibetan History, Literature, Poetry, Grammar, English, and Mathematics, which are studied as prerequisites for the more advanced courses of Elementary Dialectics, Buddhist Logic, the Prajnaparamita (the study of Wisdom/ the Heart Sutra), Madhyamika Philosophy, Vinaya (Ethics), and Abidharma (Epistemology).
Unique to Shartse is the compulsory study of Buddhist Tantra. Additionally, there are optional subjects such as Painting, Calligraphy, Tailoring, Tibetan Butter Sculpture formation, and Sand mandala creation. The training program also encourages its students to independently pursue and practice profound Buddhist rituals and to complete extensive solitary retreats. The Monastery hosts multiple festivals, seminars and inter-monastic philosophical meetings.
The Monastery also encourages active fieldwork. All members sixteen and older are given fieldwork assignments for four months of every year, during which time they are required to contribute to the day‑to‑day running of the monastery. Such co‑operative jobs include secretarial office work, cooking, milking the cows, clinic management, and general maintenance. The Monastery also hires some of the local Indian residents to assist with construction and farm work, thus contributing financially to the local economy,
Shartse has a staff of twenty, sixteen of whom are teachers and four of whom oversee the proper administration of the programs. Aside from the two English language and mathematics teachers who are recruited from outside the Monastery, every member of the staff has graduated from the Monastery. They teach an average of seven hours a day and offer private instruction from their own living quarters. For more than twenty years they have provided this service free of charge. Only recently did the New Educational Development Project begin to offer them a token remuneration of the equivalent of US $4.00 each month.
Teachers play a very special role in the lives of their students. As is the Tibetan tradition, and also due to the early age at which many youths leave their families to join the Monastery, students admire and respect their teachers as they would their parents. Teachers are considered to be the source of both the academic and the spiritual development of their students.
Following the democratic constitution promulgated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1964, all Tibetan institutions now function as parts of a democratic government. Although privately administered, the College is also administered on an election basis.
There are eight board members who are elected as directors every three years. The President of the College, however, is appointed directly by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as was done in pre‑invasion Tibet.
Purpose of the Tour
The 2022 Tour from Gaden Shartse Monastic University will arrive in the West soon and we look forward to sharing the Buddha's teachings, seeing and visiting our new and old friends and touring the varied locales, climates and customs. The Primary Purpose of Tour is to present the Tibetan Perspective of the Buddha's teachings, numerous Empowerment's, Lectures, Mandalas have been in preparation for months to make this possible. Secondly, Gaden Shartse needs to maintain the University Temples, classrooms, library. texts, kitchens, food, grounds, and fields. If we were to guess $2.00(USA) is needed to maintain one monk for one day and that includes a small weekly stipend for necessities, then this represents vast sums of money, for over 1000 monks, everyday. We wish and want you to come stay with us and share our life. It has been suggested Gaden Shartse needs a guest house in Bhodgaya for transiting monks and students. This is still in discussion.
To be of service to the world community by nurturing peace, harmony, compassion, and tolerance.
To raise funds to preserve Tibetan culture and educational supplies, teachers, buildings, maintenance, and outreach at Gaden Shartse Phukhang Monastery
in the Tibetan Refugee Settlement at Mundgod, India.