By Ashley Toney, December 2018
In 1997, the Sakya Heritage Foundation, SHF, was founded through the profound vision of His Holiness Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang. His vision was to rebuild a monastery of the Sutrayana tradition in India, the birthplace of Buddhism. In addition to the monastery, designs for a community school, medical clinic, and nursing home were incorporated into the plan. Since the founding of SHF, His Holiness, members of the Sakya family, and volunteers have helped to facilitate land purchases, the architectural designing, and continued development of Sakya Heritage Foundation in India.
“SHF” evolved into “Sakya Heritage Society” (SHS) when applying for non-profit status in India (non-profits in India are known as “societies.”) The Society’s guiding purpose is to protect, preserve, and continue Tibetan Buddhism, especially the Sakya lineage, for current and all future generations.
In 2002, a “farm house” property outside of New Delhi was purchased and established as the Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang. Soon, monks and teachers began activities at the center. Each year, the center grows and further develops. Currently, SHS maintains the Delhi Sakya Phuntsok Phodrang, locally known as “Buddha Ashram,” where monks reside and receive traditional monastic education. SHS provides room, board, and medical support to each monk and resident teacher. This property was the site of H.H. Jigdal Dagchen Dorje Chang’s cremation in 2016.
In 2009, over 13 acres in Jaigon, West Bengal, India, near the Bhutanese border, were purchased with the goal being to build the main Sutrayana monastery and community school and clinic. Additional land was purchased, architectural drawings were commissioned, and various permits for utilities and construction were sought. After going through years of permitting and legal “hoops,” the Society was granted permission to install a fence, utilities, and to begin construction.
Now after initial fundraising efforts and the persistence of the SHS friends and members, construction of the community school is happening! In August 2018, Ashley Toney visited the site and stayed at the SHS house where a small group of extremely dedicated monks and Lamas manage the property and oversee the construction project. The first building being constructed is a five level, 18 classroom, structure where large gathering halls and a courtyard will provide ample space for educational activities. A small residence and kitchen are also in the process of being built.
The Jaigon site will provide a year-round location for monastic education and Dharma activities. Eventually, the monks receiving education in New Delhi will move to Jaigon to continue their monastic studies. The local Jaigon community will benefit from the community school, which will be available to anyone.
Those wishing to support Sakya Heritage Society and bring His Holiness’s vision to fruition may donate via Sakya Monastery (https://www.sakya.org/donate/)with a memo “Sakya Heritage.”