Serpom Monastery – Almost Three Years Later

Serpom Monastery, March 2014

Over a month ago, one of DorjeShugden.com’s regular contributors visited Serpom Monastery in Bylakuppe, India. With fond memories of the monastery’s inauguration in December 2011, we at DorjeShugden.com were looking forward to receiving good news about Serpom Monastery. To our dismay however, we discovered that the monastery and the resident monks have suffered greatly at the hands of the neighbouring community, ever since their opening almost 3 years ago.

Just like the separation that occurred in Ganden Shartse Monastery which resulted in the formation of Shar Ganden Monastery in Mundgod, a similar separation took place within Sera Mey Monastery. Serpom Monastery was formed due to the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration’s (CTA’s) policy of disassociating with and expelling monks who refuse to give up their vows and practice of the great protector Dorje Shugden.

When Ganden Shartse Monastery split, then Abbot H.E. Khensur Rinpoche Dakpa Tenzin braved the wrath of the Dalai Lama and Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) by insisting that monastic property be divided equally between Shar Ganden’s monks (formerly Dokhang Khamtsen) and the remaining monks of Ganden Shartse according to headcount. Through his compassion and unbiased care for the monks of Ganden regardless of their practice, the monks of Shar Ganden had sufficient assets and did not have to experience severe poverty after the separation, although Khensur Rinpoche suffered for his bravery.

Serpom’s troubles did not end after separation

*In the case of Serpom Monastery however, things were quite different. Instead of dividing the properties equally based on the headcounts of the monks, the then Abbot of Sera Mey, Kensur Rinpoche Lobsang Rabga, who presided over the separation and segregation of monastic assets allowed Serpom Monastery (formally Pomra Khamtsen) to keep only the buildings on Pomra Khamtsen land. This decision, although seemingly fair, left monks from both sides struggling to rebuild some essential structures of their separated monastery. The Serpom monks were without a properly- sized prayer hall, without a school and with insufficient accommodation and in the early days, Serpom did not even have a proper source of water (the monastic water pump house was built elsewhere) .

The monks of Serpom thus struggled to rebuild from near-zero, and eventually succeeded in raising sufficient funds to build a new and bigger prayer hall – the most basic structure required for a monastery.

The Old Pomra Khamtsen prayer hall was too small for the 600 monks that joined Serpom Monastery

 

A monastery without a school

Another fundamental necessity in a monastery is the existence of a school, where young monks receive basic education and Buddhist teachings. After the split, Serpom Monastery had no school and no facilities to educate their young monks, a problem which if not resolved, would pose a great threat to the survival of the teachings, rituals and practices of Lama Tsongkapa’s lineage.

Worried for the future of the monastery, the monks of Serpom decided to convert part of their already limited living quarters into classrooms and established a temporary school; while the senior monks shared the remaining monk quarters, causing the standard of living to drop further through severe overcrowding.

One of Serpom’s temporary living quarters.

The original monk quarters of Pomra Khamtsen

Serpom’s new classrooms. Due to the kindness and generosity of sponsors, Serpom’s new school was built in 2011.

Lack of Basic Amenities

Serpom’s own water pump

Located in rural Bylakuppe, water supply to Serpom Monastery was and continues to be inadequate, like many rural locations in India, despite the local government’s longstanding efforts to improve the availability of clean water.

Without proper water supply pipes, the monks of both Sera Mey and Serpom are highly dependent on water pumps which were sponsored and built for the local community. Unfortunately, after the Serpom monks were expelled from Sera Mey, the administration of Sera Mey prohibited all Serpom monks from using the sole water pump and the only source of clean water in the area.

As a result, the monks of Serpom Monastery once again had to suffer without clean water until they raised sufficient funds to build their own water pump house. Clearly, the Dorje Shugden ban is affecting the welfare of Dorje Shugden practitioners, even to this extreme.

Upon further enquiry as to the reason for this discrimination, we were informed that the majority of Tibetans believe that Dorje Shugden practitioners will pollute the water supply if they were to share it. It is a shame that even in the monasteries, a place where the path to enlightenment is taught, such bon-like superstitions would be believed.

Monks fetching water for their daily needs

 

The shop that sells almost anything

The Serpom monastery shop

Another unusual feature of Serpom Monastery is the Serpom monastery shop, which is unusually well-stocked compared to other monasteries. We were informed that Serpom was forced to invest in a better supplied store because Serpom monks are not allowed to frequent the stores within the local community, and were forced to travel great distances to the nearest Indian village just to obtain basic necessities.

The monastery shop also has a small corner which serves as a cyber cafe for the monks for similar reasons, i.e. Serpom monks are not allowed entry into the local Tibetan settlement’s cyber cafes.

A makeshift cyber cafe for the monks of Serpom. As Serpom monks are not welcome in the cyber cafes within the local Tibetan settlement, the monastery has to provide these facilities.

 

The Canteen

Serpom Monastery’s Canteen

This picture shows the canteen of Serpom Monastery, formerly the canteen of Sera Mey. As it was built on Pomra Khamtsen land, Sera Mey was forced to hand over the canteen to Serpom. We were informed that prior to the separation of the two monasteries, the monks of Sera Mey stopped frequenting the canteen solely because it was located within the boundaries of Pomra Khamtsen, and hence was polluted. Conversely, the monks of Serpom were forced to seek their meals from the canteen (which normally serves just drinks and light meals) because the monastic kitchen refused them food.

Sera Mey grudgingly gives the canteen to Serpom

 

Shugden Lamas are unwelcome, but their money is

Many buildings within Sera Mey Monastery were sponsored and built by Dorje Shugden lamas in the past. However after the ban was enforced, Sera Mey showed no gratitude but showed great disrespect to these great Dorje Shugden lamas.

Sera Mey’s Hospital

Behind this wall is Sera Mey’s hospital. It was sponsored by Panglung Rinpoche, a Dorje Shugden lama. Despite being the sponsor of the hospital, Panglung Rinpoche was denied entry into the hospital during one of his visits to Serpom monastery, just because he was a Dorje Shugden practitioner. The fact that Panglung Rinpoche was solely responsible for the hospital’s existence was and still is conveniently overlooked, while Sera Mey monks continue to use the hospital facilities offered by a Dorje Shugden Lama.

In another example, Sera Mey’s Tsangpa Khamtsen was sponsored by H.E. Gangchen Rinpoche. It is part of monastic custom and etiquette to erect a signboard with the sponsor’s name at the entrance of the building, as a gesture of appreciation and gratitude, and such a signboard used to exist at the main entrance of Tsangpa Khamtsen. Today however, no signboard can be seen – it was taken down because Gangchen Rinpoche’s name was on it. If Gangchen Rinpoche’s name is so intolerable, why continue occupying the building which he sponsored?

Sera Mey’s kitchen, behind the tree

*Behind this wall is Sera Mey’s hospital. It was partially sponsored by Panglung Rinpoche, a Dorje Shugden lama. Despite being one of the key persons in facilitating the sponsorships of the hospital, Panglung Rinpoche was denied entry into the hospital during one of his visits to Serpom monastery, just because he was a Dorje Shugden practitioner. The fact that Panglung Rinpoche was also responsible for the hospital’s existence was and still is conveniently overlooked, while Sera Mey monks continue to use the hospital facilities offered by a Dorje Shugden Lama.

*Not only this, if one were to look through Sera Mey’s Social Service website, there is absolutely no mention of Panglung Rinpoche’s name as one of the benevolent sponsors. Much credit has been given to the help and assistance that came from abroad especially to Mr H. Poitner, a German from Norbu Ling dharma centre in Munich, Germany. We can see that the clinic was named after him, i.e. the H. Poitner Health Centre. But, we at dorjeshugden.com have learnt from Norbu Ling’s website that the Honourable Chairman of Norbu Ling is none other than Panglung Rinpoche himself.

Description from Norbu Ling’s website:

“Norbu Ling e.V. was founded in 1994. At that time a group of committed people got together to support Tibetan refugees.
Venerable Dr. Panglung Rinpoche is our Honorable Chairman, supporting our activities with his precious advice.”

Panglung Rinpoche was living in exile in India in 1958 but moved to Germany in 1960. Rinpoche received his doctorate degree in 1979 from the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich. Suffice it to say that Panglung Rinpoche was instrumental in the building and development of Sera Mey’s health care and hospital for without his involvement, would funding and assistance come so smoothly from abroad?
Then why is Panglung Rinpoche now silenced and refused entry to the health care facilities that contributed to? This is because Rinpoche is a Shugden practitioner.

http://serameymonastery.org/SocialServicesocietyFullinfo.aspx

http://serameymonastery.org/SocialServiceSociety.aspx

http://www.norbuling.de/html/norbuling_eng.htm
http://www.norbuling.de/html/galerie_klinik.htm

When the monks of Sera first arrived in Bylakuppe from Buxar, they only had a mere 10,000 rupees (approximately USD 165) to their name. While rebuilding their monastery. Sera Mey accumulated significant debts to contractors, suppliers as well as the then Tibetan Government in Exile (TGiE) now known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), who sent their representatives to collect levies from the monastery.

*The financial plight of Sera Mey went on for some time until Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche, one of the benefactors who paid off all the monastery’s debts from funds raised through his center in America. With the advice of his root teacher, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, Kensur Rinpoche also initiated a number of projects to support the Sera Mey monks, thus supporting them to rebuild Sera Mey Monastery in South India to what it is today.

*However, when this great Abbot Emeritus visited Sera Mey’s kitchens even before the separation, he was denied food and drink – the Sera Mey monks refused to serve him just because of his practice of Dorje Shugden.

 

Serpom Monastery, vandalized

Serpom Monastery signboard vandalized by the local Tibetan populace, hoping to prevent visitors from finding and visiting the monastery

Rubbish intentionally strewn alongside the main access road to Serpom Monastery, once again to deter others from visiting. As the land belongs to Sera Mey, Serpom monks are unable to clean up the debris as they will be charged with trespassing

Serpom Monastery’s present state leaves a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who has a sense of justice and morality. Not only do the monks of Serpom have to live as refugees in a foreign land, they are even ostracized by their very own countrymen. It is doubly unfortunate that the monks of Serpom Monastery have to endure these hardships and discrimination from the local Tibetan community without any assistance or support from the local Indian authorities.

The ban on Dorje Shugden has truly brought nothing but suffering. It has forced so many lay and ordained individuals to conduct themselves in ways that would otherwise be prohibited by their refuge and ordination vows. If there is anything that Tibetan Buddhism reaps from this ban, it is only the decline of morality within the Gelug tradition.

Contemplate this: If Sera Mey refuses to share water with Dorje Shugden practitioners in fear that their water source will be polluted, why don’t they return everything that was sponsored or built by Dorje Shugden lamas, as they should also consider such offerings unclean? For the sake of Lama Tsongkapa’s lineage, such double standards and greed must be stopped and the ban lifted.

We at DorjeShugden.com feel very fortunate to have forged a connection with the pure monks of Serpom monastery. They have gone through much hardship but remain firm and strong in their faith. We offer our prayers and support for their continued growth and success in preserving Lama Tsongkapa’s pure lineage.

*Edited in light of new discoveries.

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12 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Sera Mey “monks” have sunk to the lowest of morality and raised themselves to the highest level of hypocrisy. Having separate into two monastery, expelling ds practitioner monks out of the monastery leaving them stranded in such harsh living conditions, keeping for themselves buildings that were originally sponsored by great ds lamas is ridiculous! Taking down H.E Gangchen Rinpoche’s name from the entrance of the Tsangpa Khamtsen is so ungrateful, it’s basically a form of stealing which last time I checked was one of the vows monks have to take and is to not steal. Also their sneaky disgusting attitude of throwing rubbish at their side of the road not allowing monks to trespass to clean up makes me sick to my core.

    I was truly shocked at the morality of the Sera Mey “monks” that they disallowed Panglung Rinpoche into entering the very own hospital which he had sponsored entirely. It is incredibly hypocritical when they believe not sharing water with ds practitioners because it is polluted, yet still reside in a building that was sponsored by great ds lamas and ds practitioners.

    “If there is anything that Tibetan Buddhism reaps from this ban, it is only the decline of morality within the Gelug tradition.” This definitely sad indeed. We all need to work together to bring the ban down, even if it is in their own little way, this has to stop.

  2. Serpom Monastery definitely has come a long way since the separation from Sera Mey. They have really built themselves up from nothing, without support and faced with so much discrimination. Even till today, they are being looked down by the other monks. I just could not believe that this kind of attitude is practiced in the sangha community. Aren’t monks suppose to be kind and giving? This is going against their own vows.

    Anyways, thank you for highlighting the difficulties faced by Serpom. But their believe in the protector has helped them to come out of this misery stronger and bigger. Look at their new prayer hall that is so grand and beautiful!! When you believe and persevered, the protector will help and assistance will come.

    Those hypocrites in Sera Mey just continue to enjoy the facilities built and sponsored by DS monks. We will see Serpom grow even stronger!

  3. If the separation of monastery is so advantageous, and an example that DS practitioners have religious freedom, then this is a direct counter to Sikyong Lobsang Sangay’s recent Q&A session with some Tibetan Youth (refer here: http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/features/tibetan-youths-question-dorje-shugden-ban/).

    In what state of mind would monks choose to separate from their mother monastery, and suffer such ill treatment and conditions within their own homes? If there was religious freedom, there would not be segregation. If there was no ban on the practise of Dorje Shugden, why has it split the Tibetan community into two? So who has such power to exercise this, if not for the CTA and His Holiness? You cannot deny that there is no bad, when all evidences is clear, and that people are realising this discrimination and speaking out against it, even the Tibetan youth.

    Serpom monastery has silently suffered so much, yet they brace it all and rise above the hardships to stay true to their practise and lineage. They make do with what they have with the needs of the monastery. It is sad to see the way that they are treated, the rubbish strewn all across the entrance to Serpom, the water pump not being shared because people actually believe the false ideology that DS people will contaminate the water. You know what, the violence shown towards ds monks (http://www.dorjeshugden.com/all-articles/features/tibetan-leadership-organizes-violence/) is far worst than sharing facilities, and thinking that it is unclean. The vows that have been broken, the sufferings that has arisen, the disruption of unity…is all caused by the ban. So, it isn’t because that people practise DS which hinders the movement of Tibet. It is BECAUSE THERE IS A BAN, which hinders the Tibetan cause.

    Monasteries like Serpom and Shar Gaden really need public support and funding from across the world, because their own government would not assist them. These monks are real monks who practise despite the issues faced, and the threats to their lives. These monks uphold and propagate the pure lineage of Lama Tsongkhapa without violence, and with so much devotion to their gurus. If Sera Mey thinks that anything associated with DS practitioners are unclean and not pure, then dorjeshugden.com, you are right, they should return everything that has been generously donated to them and raised by DS lamas for the growth of the monastery. Afterall, anything that goes through their hands are ‘unclean’…so if Sera Mey monks are still utilising the facilities and buildings generously donated by DS lamas too, aren’t they silently supporting DS practise and lamas then? They agree with what the way the sponsorship was raised, so in other words, agree with the methods used my DS lamas, and the practises that they do which have assisted these lamas… funny logic they have.

  4. What happen to the Sangha communities? Arent the monks and nuns took vows become a better person, alleviate one’s suffering and lead the path to enlightenment? CTA’s doings to Serpom monastery and high lama like Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche are way too detrimental to the peaceful Buddhist communities. CTA is causing direct separation among the Sangha Communities, this is schism, this is one of the heinous crime – causing schism amongst members of the Sangha community of which there is no way to purify! How could he, the Dalai Lama who is well-verse in the Vinaya could engage in such heinous actions and would go to the extent of forcing the other monks and nuns to engage in such actions?

  5. It is indeed very sad to see the vandalism and rubbish dumps purposely done against the Dorje Shugden monasteries. It shows that the hate towards the Dorje Shugden practitioners are very strong, yet everyone in CTA is denying the existence of the ban.

    One of the basic vows is “no lying”, but CTA being a Buddhism based administration, is lying all the way even to their own people. Tibetans are already lost their “country” and now residing in other people’s country, and if this is not time for compassion towards own people, then when is the right time??

  6. This is quite sad to see that the sangha community is no compassion towards the Shudgen practitioners. The basic necessities like water and foods supply also a problem to them. In fact, the Shudgen practitioners never do harms to anybody but just firm to their vows and continue to their practices, there is nothing wrong about it. Nobody has the right to judge or punish the Shudgen practitioners by the way of food and water. I wish the Sangha community can aware of their actions and contemplate about it. This is totally contradict to the Buddhism teaching that be compassion to all level of sentient being with no condition. Please do think about it.

  7. This is extremely disturbing. How can someone pollutes something just because they have different belief? In that case, Sera monastery are breathing in polluted air too since DS practitioners are also breathing the same air.

    Compassion is the most important value taught by Buddha, where is compassion in this case shown to the DS monks? The Sera Mey Monastery is indirectly teaching people to be intolerant which is against the Buddhist teachings. Their action creates doubt in people on Dharma.

    I hope Sera Mey monastery can see the negative consequence they bring to Dharma and stop behaving like a ignorant child.

  8. As much as the CTA like to deny the real situation, it is obvious that truths will still be reviewed on its own. Thanks to CTA for all their efforts in banning the practice of Dorje Shugden, genuine dharma practitioners are forced into living in such appalling conditions!

    It is so silly that the water pump has to be separated, cannot eat at the same canteen; it is ridiculous that Kensur Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche was denied food and drink at Sera Mey monastery even though he was the one who single-handedly raise all the funds needed for the monastery to be rebuilt!

    If DS practitioners are seen “dirty”, all the Sera Mey monastery monks should rebuild another Sera Mey somewhere else since this original one was fully sponsored and built by all DS monks: Gangchen Rinpoche, Panglung Rinpoche, Lobsang Tharchin Rinpoche! How come the monks still remain in Sera Mey?

    What do we see from here? Childish act with self-cherishing mind. They conveniently keep what they needed and basically put the DS practitioners into dead end, regardless of what will happen to them. How sad and unreasonable this is!

    The ban MUST be lifted!!!

  9. This article is definitely bittersweet. I am glad for Serpom Monastery and rejoice in their activities to rebuild a monastic institution that practices Dorje Shugden after being ostracized from Sera Mey. However the treatment they have endured is terrible and harks back to medieval times of exclusion and such treatment.

    I find it absolutely absurd about the water pump being polluted by practitioners of Dorje Shugden. This does not accord with the teachings of the Buddha at all, but is a sign that those who are upholding this ban have NO idea what they are doing or practicing and how this accords more to the values of mere superstition than anything else.

  10. Only one word I have for Sera Mey – UNGRATEFUL!

    What I gathered from reading this article, Serpom’s determination to continue the lineage of Je Tsongkhapa in its purest form has given them the tenacity and resilience to the hardship they had to endure. Although the condition has improved significantly now in comparison to before, the discrimination issue still exist.

    Regardless, I see strength in this group of loyal sanghas through their results. They will emerge and advance into a great monastery in the future. Like Shar Gaden, Serpom will produce Shugden geshes and lamas who will spread DS practice worldwide and eventually contributes towards lifting the ban.

  11. I have to said the monk in Serpom monastery really can induced so much hardship their faith in DS practice is very strong . I m glad that now their condition is getting better we as a outsider must help all these monk to uplifting the ban, so that more people will be benefited from this profound teaching.

  12. Is very sad to read this post because the monk has to go through so much in order to receive teaching, the are true devotee to DS their determination really drive us to work harder to lift the ban . The CTA should not be unfair to them they are Sangha we laypeople need them to preserve the holy Dharma, whatever The CTA do to this monk are very bad it create very bad karma for the people who involved. Urgently we really need to lift the ban !

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Contemplate This

.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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