with the Monk Lobsang Phuntsok

A healing recipe

The Jhamtse Gatsal Community project: Tibetan monk Lobsang Phuntsok visits Corvara

If you were to speak Tibetan, hearing the words Jhamtse Gatsal would fill you with joy, for they mean ‘the garden of love and compassion’. Located at the very north-eastern edge of India, on the Himalaya peaks bordering Bhutan and China, the Jhamtse Gatsal, a community for Tibetan orphans, was founded in 2006 by Lobsang Phuntsok. The Costa Family Foundation has been supporting the project for quite some time.

Over the last few days, we’ve been delighted to welcome Lobsang back to Corvara after a four-year hiatus. While his visit was short, it was long enough for him to tell us life story and the Community’s progress – a place where children receive nurturing love and compassion, which they’re then taught to pass on. In Jhamtse Gastal, everything is interconnected – education, meditation, culture, community life – and cannot thrive without the next link. Just like trees and plants in a garden, their roots branching out and communicating underground. A garden is a powerful symbol, representing hope in the future: even a tiny seed harbours the potential to grow into a magnificent, generous tree. Lobsang tirelessly tends to his garden, nurturing small seeds with love and compassion. He sees their potential to become gigantic trees, their branches groaning under the weight of fruits –he can see them grow, support each other, and regenerate in countless ways for future generations. The adults working at the community focus on tirelessly nourishing the children – they don’t repair them, for they aren’t broken – so they can develop solid roots which will shape who they will become. Back in 2006, this was a ‘bold, social experiment’ –now it has become a role model, and a learning centre which is changing education across India and the entire world. Many researchers from Japan and the United States are interested in Lobsang’s educational model to try and understand the reasons for its runaway success. A garden is a place of rebirth and, out of the many stories shared with us by the monk, we’d like to share one of three children who he welcomed to his community between 2009 and 2011. They’d been deprived of so much, and their childhood had been scarred by pain and abandonment. These seeds, which seemed to be beyond help, have become two women and a man who, thanks to the loving gardener, have found the resources and strength to bloom. When faced with the picture of these adults, you can’t believe they were once those lost children, as their life was radically changed: they’ve become two teachers and one engineer, ready to gift all the love and compassion they received to other people.

“You think you’re saving a child’s life. But actually, you’re changing their life and the future of an entire generation.” This is how Lobsang thanked the Costa Family Foundation for its support – by distance adopting young Lham. Lobsang’s visit was so extraordinary and powerful because it reminds us that, at the end of the day, all you need to concoct a healing recipe is very simple: Love and Compassion are the only two ingredients capable of causing deep changes. His recommendation to the sceptics of the world? If you don’t believe this recipe truly works, then you simply have to increase the dose.