Choedar’s Story

December 17, 2012

in Nepal


Choedar (right), with his father and sister in Tsum

Genchoedar Lama is from the village of Choekam in Tsum Valley. He traveled with us in 2010 and joined our group again this year as we reached Tsum. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to travel with Choedar, so I thought I would share a few quotes reflecting themes he returns to again and again and tell you how he came to be such a kind and compassionate soul.

“We have this one precious human life. We must try to utilize it in positive way.”

“Motivation is the very important thing. Keep a positive motivation and try to help others. “

“Compassion springs from awareness of our interdependency with all things. When we realize our interdependency, we find caring in our hearts.”

“Keep an open heart.”

At the age of 9 or 10, Choedar’s older brother was sent to live at Mu Gompa, the Buddhist monastery at the high end of Tsum Valley, before the pass to Tibet. It’s common for families to send their second son to be a monk. However, Drukpa Rinpoche, the reincarnated lama from Bhutan who is head of the monastery, rejected the boy. The family of 7 sent their only other son instead. At age 6, Choedar went to live in the remote monastery, and Drukpa Rinpoche quickly selected him for higher study. After only a month, Choedar (still age 6) and 4 other boys were sent to South India to study at Drepung Monastery. Within a week, Choedar alone was sent to Sera Monastery in the Mysore area. Sera is one of the three great Gelugpa monasteries of old Tibet and has been reestablished in India. Choedar received a strict traditional monastic education there for 17 years, visiting his family only twice in that time.

Choedar continued his studies at a Tibetan University in Varanasi for 9 more years. Too far and too poor for him to travel home to Tsum on the 15-day school break, Choedar saved 25 rupees a month (about 50 cents) from his food allowance and used it for food during the break. Sometimes his old teacher from Sera would send 500 rupees (about 10 dollars), which helped him tremendously. Finally, the library at Varanasi wanted to enter Tibetan texts into an electronic catalog and decided to train 10 monks to type in Tibetan. At the final exam, they would hire only the top 2 to work for the library. Choedar was trained and placed as one of the top two. He got the job and earned 3 rupees per publication entered. Every afternoon during his break from studies, he would fastidiously enter the titles. At the end of a month, he received the amazing sum of 6000 rupees ($110). From then on, the jobs began to come.

Choedar says, “Now I realize if you suffer before, you will get happiness after. Now I feel very happy.”

Choedar completed his Acharya degree in 2000 (that’s 26 years of Buddhist studies!) and wanted to serve 3 years in the Tibetan lay community. He taught in Deradhun at a Tibetan School. At the end of 3 years, he returned to a monastic community and became the Assistant Director of Education for Kathmandu’s prestigious Kopan Monastery. (Kopan is famous as the first monastery in Nepal to teach Westerners, and celebrities such as Richard Gere have studied there.) Choedar wanted to make Kopan monks educated and open-minded, and he brought new techniques to the school, including American-style teaching that he learned on visits to the American school in Bangladesh.

After 9 years, he has resigned from Kopan in order to travel to the US. Choedar’s sister in Minnesota has not seen their father in 10 years. Choedar will go to help care for her 3 children while she returns to Tsum for a month this winter. Ready for new challenges, he plans to apply to teach at a large Tibetan School in Minneapolis and stay in the U.S. a while.



Choedar and me, on the trail to the border

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