In August 2019, my friend Birgitte of Santa Barbara and I visited the Kingdom of Ladakh in the Himalaya region of India. Geographically, Ladakh is located to the north of India, bordering Tibet to the east and the Indian Kashmir territory to the west. While I am always thrilled to visit this beautiful part of the world, the main purpose of our trip was to visit the Ngari Institute of Buddhist Dialectics in the Village of Saboo.
Over the years, I have learned of Geshe Tsewang Dorje’s (current Director of the Institute) tireless fundraising efforts to support the now 24-year old Institute. He has travelled worldwide with 4 to 5 Buddhist monks to conduct several labor and time-intensive sand mandala tours to raise awareness and financial support. Birgitte and I finally had the opportunity to visit the Institute and to witness the fruits of Geshe la’s and Ngari staff’s hard work – the amazingly beautiful campus of the Ngari Institute.
The Institute spans over 20 hectares of desert land, which was transformed into a learning center for the under-privileged children of Ladakh. The Institute currently provides free shelter, food, and education for 60 children, mainly orphans and children from poor local families. In addition to caring for these children, the Ngari Institute has begun construction of the Jamgon Shedrup Thekchog Ling Monastery and 10 retreat facilities, located on the same property. The construction of the Monastery is expected to be completed in December of this year. When I was there, the artists from Nepal were working on the details of beautiful Buddhist wall paintings in the new Monastery’s main hall.
We also had the opportunity to visit the Ngari children in their dormitories and dining room. We got up in the morning to witness school buses taking the children to the local schools and observed the young children’s Tibetan language class, led by Lama Ngawang Gyatso, in the evening. It was such a joy for us to meet the Ngari children and spend time with them. I should also mention that a new dining hall for the children is currently under construction, close to their dormitories. This new dining hall should be completed at the same time with the Monastery project.
For our entire visit, we stayed at the Norling Guesthouse on the Ngari Institute’s campus. The facilities at the guesthouse are clean and beautiful, really beyond our expectations. Without having any knowledge about the facility, I contacted Geshe Dorje before my trip, to ask him if I would need to bring a kettle for boiling water (If you ever travelled to Ladakh and stayed at budget guesthouses, you know exactly what I meant here). Geshe Dorje simply told me, “No Jangchup la, no need to bring your kettle!” After checking in the Norling Guesthouse, we were taken to the dining hall for tea. I then realized that the dining hall is large enough to easily hold 30 people at one time, and its nicely set up kitchen has all the basic cooking facilities.
The lesson learned is that if you visit the Ngari Institute, you will be so well taken care of by the guesthouse and kitchen staff! Oh, and please do yourself a favor by asking Lama Kunsang, who is the guesthouse manager, to bake the Italian style vegetarian pizza for you. He will show you the traditional pizza oven (truly stunning) behind the guesthouse and showcase his pizza baking skill. Lama Kunsang’s pizza is one of the best I have ever tasted!
Birgitte and I truly had a great time visiting the Ngari Institute and we cannot wait to return to this lovely place. Thank you Geshe Dorje and other lamas at the Institute for your hospitality!