Milwaukee meets Drepung Loseling Tibetan Monastery: A Cultural Exchange

Journal Sentinel Story DEC 30, 2007: http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=701559

Written in January 2008 and a living project today:

I have been invited to Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Drepung Loseling in India for the inauguration of the new assembly hall with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama in January 2008. Our family has been supportive of their educational fund for the last fourteen years. Why? Because we believe in the freedoms of religion, speech and rights to assemble and receive an education. And on a personal level, we have also come to know a very special Tibetan monk, Kunchok Chophel, who is a teacher at the monastery.

Under the present Chinese occupation of Tibet, monasteries which function for both religious and educational purposes were destroyed. Only a handful of more than 6000 remain. Tibetans, both lay people and religious orders have been persecuted since the 1950′s for their beliefs and cultural identity. Today, Tibetan refugee communities in exile are re-building their culture in India and elsewhere. The most high profile Tibetan, Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama is not only the religious and political leader of Tibet, but a global living symbol of peaceful, compassionate, and respectful way of life on our planet. The “promotion of human affection” is not just Buddhist morality but a universal theme that all of us can reflect on and promote in our individual lives. To read more about The Dalai Lama see “Freedom in Exile : The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama”, Harper, San Francisco, 1991

To honor my Milwaukee roots and share this experience with a wider circle, I am compiling a prayer scroll. This scroll will contain names and intentions from the people of Milwaukee and surrounding areas. I will read the scroll in the sacred space at Drepung on behalf of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Great Lakes Culture. If you wish your name or intention to be listed on the scroll, please e-mail me or stop by an upcoming show. A small donation to the Drepung Educational Fund is appreciated. I will read the scroll in the sacred space at Drepung on behalf of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Great Lakes Culture.

Consider this: Write your name or the name of your loved ones, family, friends, significant people in your life or maybe even the name of an enemy, someone you resent or one you wish to reconcile with.

Contemplate some of these when you write your names or intentions:
Peace,Justice and Evolution in our Communities
Freedom for people in Tibet,
Freedom for all people in exile and refugee communities,
Safety and long life for H.H. The Dalai Lama: Global Symbol of Peace and Healing,
Safety and long life for spiritual leaders, teachers and healers on our planet,
Freedom of Speech, Religion and to Assemble for All.

Be a Part of the Milwaukee - Drepung Prayer Scroll.
I am honored to be your personal messenger to an Inauguration of a historic world cultural sacred site! I thank my family— Sheldon, Shannon, Michaela and Jackson for supporting me on this journey. I also thank The Schloegel and Rusch Families for your support.

E-mail me at krusch@wi.rr.com or pass on your written intention/donation at an upcoming show.

Special thank you to Ven. Kunchok Chophel.

Some more details on the MKE-Tibet exchange:

At least 50 Americans are making the journey to Southwestern, India in January. I am the only Wisconsinite as far as I know.

In another exchange, I will be bringing a cloth that we have painted with the youth at The Milwaukee County Juvenile Detention Center. We have left the center of the cloth blank and I hope to complete the cloth with Tibetan youth on this journey. This cloth will be part of our annual performance of Express Yourself Milwaukee at Marquette University in May 2008. At Express Yourself, our goal is to share healing arts with youth and this cloth will be a symbol of positive expression, global exchange and peace. Here is a photo of The Express Yourself cloth. Detention youth phrases on the theme of celebration and peace were taped to the cloth at a special performance before the cloth left for India.

On a personal level – I will be attending the inauguration ceremonies, attending teachings on three ancient Buddhist texts with H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama, participating in an empowerment ceremony and long-life ceremony for H.H. and attendees. And finally meeting Kunchok Chophel in person – we have been exchanging letters for about fourteen years. He is the ‘honorary’ recipient of the donation we have sent to support the exile community. All donations are spread equally among all who live and attend the monastery — which supports childhood through university level education.

Kunchok Chophel, 1993, More on his life and work as a teacher is coming soon. Kunchok was 51 years old when this picture was taken.

Monk Students and School Staff in India 1994

Drepung Loseling Monastery in India

Drepung Loseling Monastery was one of Tibet’s largest monastic universities. Located in the hills on the northern outskirts of Lhasa, it was established in 1416 as an institute of higher Buddhist education by Khenpo Lekden, a direct disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), founder of the eclectic Geluk School. The First Dalai Lama was also a disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa, and the Second Dalai Lama built a residence in Drepung, called the Ganden Potrang, which remained a hereditary seat of all subsequent Dalai Lamas. At its zenith Drepung Loseling housed some ten thousand monk students. These were drawn not only from Tibet, but also from China, Himalayan India, Mongolia, and the Mongol regions of Eastern Russia.

The Mission of Drepung Loseling Institute

Following the legacy of Drepung Loseling Monastery, India, and with the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Drepung Loseling Institute, is dedicated to the study and preservation of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of wisdom and compassion. A center for the cultivation of both heart and intellect, it provides a sanctuary for the nurturance of inner peace and kindness, community understanding, and global healing.
In implementing this vision, Drepung Loseling Institute, has two main objectives:
To contribute to North American culture by providing theoretical knowledge and practical training in Tibetan Buddhist scholarly traditions for Western students, scholars and the general public; and
To help preserve the endangered Tibetan culture, which today leads a fragile existence in the exiled refugee communities in India and Nepal. www.drepung.org

The Drepung Loseling Educational Fund

The Drepung Loseling Educational Fund was established in 1988 to preserve traditional Tibetan culture by sponsoring a monk in training at Drepung Loseling. Conditions in the Tibetan refugee camps in India are basic, and the average family is poor.
Young monks born in India have little parental support, and depend almost entirely upon the production of our small farm. Over half of our population is comprised of recent refugees whose parents remain in Chinese occupied Tibet; therefore, they cannot provide them with support. We also have a number of young monks who are orphans.

The Monastery accepts all sincere candidates regardless of their financial situation and must support them by means of the proceeds of the same small parcel of land provided to the original 216 Loseling refugee monks. The Fund helps provide for the basic needs of food, health care and education for these monks. Today, in 2007, there are approximately 3000 monks that are supported through the educational fund.

Spring 2008:
I AM HOME FROM INDIA - the scroll was presented, yet you can still be a part.
Bring your intentions to
Upcoming Shows: www.ktruschmusic.net

Kunchok Chophel and Kathryn (KT) Rusch at Drepung Monastery in India, January 2008

Kunchok is now 83 years old. He escaped Tibet during the 1059 uprisings. The Chinese army pursued him with dogs and then bullets. He was shot through both forearms, but managed to make it acoss the Himalayas and into Buxa, India. He recovered for five years in a Christian missionary hospital. Land in south India was doanted to the budding Tibetan refugee community and Kungchok was one of the founders of Drepung Monastery in Exile. He is currently one of the oldest living monks at the monastery and still teaches! At Rally for Compassion in Milwaukee in April of 2008, we raised 240.00$ to purchase Kunchok a new hearing aid. Read about Rally for Comapassion on my MKE Renaissance home page.

The Artistic Exchange Cloth at Marquette University Express Yourself Milwaukee Performance Spring, 2008.

More photos from the journey of the cloth and Tibetan cloth painters can be seen found at “Artistic Exchange” on my home page at MKE Renaissance.

Last edited by kt rusch. Based on work by KT Rusch and Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on October 02, 2013

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