Supporting Bon communities
The Chasey Kengtse School and Hostel in Lubrak
The year 2002 saw the opening of Chasey Kengtse hostel, which is associated with the government school in Lubrak. Prior to this, there had been no school in Nepal where children of Bonpo families could receive a non-monastic education and also learn about their own religious tradition. There was a growing demand from Bonpo families in Mustang for a school where children could receive a high standard of education in an environment friendly to followers of the Bon religion. The main justification for opening a Bonpo hostel was the difficulty that Bonpo children experience during their education. When they can afford it, Tibetan-speaking people of highland Nepal send their children to boarding schools in the Kathmandu Valley. Here there is often serious prejudice against Bonpos, arising largely from misunderstanding of Bon doctrine and history. The consequence of this prejudice is that, when Bonpo children attend Tibetan schools, they avoid persecution by concealing their religious identity, and gradually come to regard it as a liability. At best, they grow up learning nothing of their own tradition. Under these conditions, children have no sense of belonging to a Bonpo community, and no opportunity to participate in the ceremonies and festivals that mark the Bonpo calendar. The greatest danger was that the Bon religion would become detached from everyday life and exist as a purely monastic tradition.
A tea break of first graders in the hostel’s dining room
The community of Lubrak decided to address this situation by establishing a hostel, associated with the local school, where children could freely follow their faith and learn their rich tradition without having to take orders as Bonpo monks and nuns. One of the factors in the decision to establish the hostel in Lubrak itself was the wish to stem the current haemorrhage of children from their home environment in the mountains, and prevent the young, educated generation from losing touch with village life. The name for the hostel – Chasey Kengtse – was proposed by the Ven. Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, in honour of a legendary Bonpo sage of that name.
View of the hostel towards the north
The hostel, which has been supported by the Kalpa Group since 2002, currently accommodates 75 children (40 girls and 35 boys), and, with the senior hostel in Jomsom, associated with the Dhaulagiri school, provides teaching up to the eighth grade.