Gongkar Choede is a traditional Buddhist Monastery. It is a sanctuary for study, reflection and meditation for fully ordained and novice monks, whose lifestyle is designed to be as conducive as possible for spiritual training. It is as well as a spiritual center for the lay community.
The monastery is completely dependent upon donations for its existence. Being a small monastery, with only one incumbent Rinpoche, Gongkar Choede is unique in many ways.
The monks come from various parts of Tibet, India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Some have made dangerous journeys from Tibet across the Himalayas on foot to come study here. Most of them come from very poor families, so the monastery provides for all their food, medicine, clothing and shelter. The monks all contribute to the daily running of their monastery by working together. Everyone shares in the cooking, cleaning, laundry, gardening and planting and harvesting of wheat, and other practicalities of living a simple monastic life. There are only two paid positions; the cow herder and the head cook.
The monastery is fortunate in that it is in a beautiful quiet forest setting, secluded enough to be away from worldly distractions and yet accessible enough for the Buddhist community to be part of the monastery's life.
The day begins early with classes starting at 5:15 am. An hour later in the main temple, the "Four Mandalas Puja of Tara" is performed. After a short break, there are more classes and memorization of prayers and text until lunch, followed by another class and personal study. After tea, there's one more class before lights out at 10:00 pm. Class content is dependent upon the accomplishment of the monk. The younger monks learn how to read and write in Tibetan while learning the basic prayers and monastic rituals. The older monks' study is of continuing intricacy, learning both Sutra and Tantra along with the sophisticated ritual practices. All the monks are learning English with the help of a cultural exchange program six months of the year. On Saturday, the monks have a half day off and on Sunday there are no classes. Everyone studies very hard and exams are once a year. A month holiday follows the exams, but most of the monks remain at the monastery. For the monks that have families, it is too costly to make the journey home.
Since time of the Buddha himself, there has always been a mutually supportive relationship between the monastery and the local community. The land for the monastery was donated by the adjacent Tibetan village of Laldang. Additional land was given for the growing of wheat for the monastery's use.
Special prayers and pujas are preformed by the monks at the request of the laity for occasions of blessings, rites for the deceased, the removing of obstacles, healing and for creating favorable conditions. Rinpoche is well know for his ability to perform Mo (Tibetan divinations). The monastery receives support in return, sometimes in the form of monetary gifts or other useful offerings, such as food, medicine and other requisites. Kind assistance is also provided by the Indian Buddhist laity and friends from around the world interested in helping support the monastery and secure the continuation of the Buddha-Dharma.
At Buddhist festival times, the community and the monastery celebrate together with prayers, ceremony and wonderful food. It is also a time the Tibetans as a people come together and celebrate their cultural heritage.
In this way, the days flow quickly with calm determined purpose. The monks way of life is a living example of putting the the Buddha's teachings into practice.
At the heart of it all is His Eminence Gongkar Dorje Dhenpa Rinpoche. His kindness, his humor and his sense of joy permeate the monastery's atmosphere. He never turns anyone away and shares wholeheartedly whatever he has. His devotion is enormous and his sincere wish is to benefit all sentient beings. He truly embodies the teachings of the Buddha with kindness, clarity and wisdom.