25th anniversary of Jamyang Ling


Reru was so overwhelming again! The 25th anniversary of the school project Jamyang Ling was the special reason and highlight of my trip this year.

Reru was so overwhelming again! The 25th anniversary of the school project Jamyang Ling was the special reason and highlight of my trip this year. Distant Zanskar - again and again amazing, how close it is to me, how familiar and at home I feel here among all these wonderful people and events that take place. Accompanied by two girlfriends, we recieved a very warm welcome, stayed in the most beautiful of all tent camps (well organized by Bernd and Lakhphel, a former students), which was situated a little further away next to the small lake, the nearby stream and the bordering small willow forest. The lake - often so calm and clear, reflecting everything on its surface... This reminds me of the old Tibetan proverb: "If one does not stir up water, it becomes clear, if one leaves the mind un-disturbed, it finds its own natural peace“. The mind is calm and friendly, clear and open. The atmosphere is relaxing; at the same time alertness and clarity prevail. A little further up on the mountain, where the 3 guardian stupas are situated, I stand looking down at the Reru village, towards the fields of green barley and peas. I can see a colorful tent camp......This is one of the most touching, unforgettable moments for me: about 85% of the former students of Reru - meanwhile students of Jammu Kotwal school, or even now students of unisversity are here, almost all of them. They are involved in the complex preparations for the grand anniversary celebration of the school, actively and crea-tively shaping it. An atmosphere of industrious, energetic and wellorganised creativity! There is so much to do! Everything is amazingly calm and concentrated, every day I see changes, creations...and that under the most difficult conditions. They magically conjure up a cafe in a tent, prepare delicious chais and momos, supply everyone with food and drinks: Everything is on a donation basis for the benefit of the school! They build a completely new, spacious stage for the festivities, provide space and shade for the numerous guests, parents and relatives, friends from all over the Lugnak valley. They even construct a new toilet for the most distinguished visitor, Kundeling Rinpo-che. Many activities, building, painting, sewing, handcrafting, are being carried out....Everything is being thought of, from the biggest to the smallest detail! Greater recognition, gratitude and appreciation could not have been expressed by the "old" students! Their active presence and participation shows more than 1000 words: they all want to give something back of what they had received here with their school education and at home. During the days before the celebrations, there are many opportunities to meet old girlfriends for tea, dinner and party invitations, the program is both diverse and dense. A must is also the traditional Doksa trek to the high alpine pasture, where the women of all ages work really hard. They herd cows and yaks from the village and process their products. Everything is fully utilised: Milk is processed into yoghurt, butter and cheese, the dung of the ani-mals is dried and brought down to the village, indispensable fuel for the winter. Meanwhile, a work of art, an Avalokiteshvara mandala, a religious image, a symbol of love and compassion, is being created below at the school; 2 monks from Dharamsala work for several days, highly concentrated, to transform an inner vision into a picture composed completely of fine sand. Situated in the very center of the school, the room where the monks are working. is very special and so energizing. Students and teachers are doing their very best! During the afternoon, after the official school programme, as a special surprise, elder students had organised and designed an exhibition: "The life of the people in Zanskar, yesterday and today". In each classroom, a "living museum" has been created which presented different themes and aspects of life here in the high valley, in a direct and tangible way. For example, in one room they show what people cultivate at this inhospitable altitude under these extreme climatic conditions, how they can utilize it and how they can preserve it for the long winter. What, for example, can be made of the important staple food barley? How is it roasted, ground and transformed into the ever prevailing, nutritious "tsampa"? The exhibition visitors get to know the popular "pemar", how „tsampa“ is processed with sugar and butter into a sweet snack, gladly served on special festive days. 

We learn how barley is brewed into "chang", how it is distilled into "arrak"... how milk is transformed into yoghurt, butter and „churpe", the highly valued very hard, dry cheese..... and much more. 

There was also a kind of "fashion show", what do tall and small women and men wear in which season of the year, on which occasions? Where does wool come from, how is it used, how is it spun and woven. In every class you are welcomed, questions are gladly answered, everything may be touched, appreciated…sometimes the students play scenes from the Old Zanskar. 

Theater sequences bring the "museum" to life! Much of the old knowledge is preserved here or passed on to others, old traditions remain alive! A highlight of the festival was the following visit of Kundeling Rinpoche on the 2nd day. The huge welcoming reception shows how important his visit is to the school and for all the people living in the area. Everyone is waiting for him with smiles on their faces, kataks in their hands, the white scarves as a symbolic wish of happiness. Their faces reflect anticipation and high regard. 

Rinpoche arrives, comes down the road and walks through the rows of people. Despite the exhausting journey, he seems relaxed and very present. He is so impressive with his presence, kindness, simplicity, lightness and depth. He makes as much contact as possible, touching and blessing the people, here and there a friendly word. He begins his talk with the question „What makes you happy?", indepth teaching follows. Later he gives an "initiation", distributes the blessing of "Tara", in Tibetan Buddhism the female aspect of love and compassion. Again and again, he emphasizes it´s importance for the school, he esteems continuity and the people who contribute to it! Later, he will meet up with the teachers for a more specific conversation with them, and here, too, personal contact is very important to him. It's a tremendous experience! At the end of these two rich, impressive days..... finally the evening with a huge party, music and dance performances. Here too, as I have so often noticed, the combination of tradition and modern life is so fascinating! Young, dynamic, adults, now with city-experience, students of Jammu and then the local inhabitants of whom some have never even been beyond the Lungnak valley. Hightech equipment" with "Bollywood" or "Jammu Rock dance Performances" meet ancient Zanskari dances and songs, slow and meditative in their movements. Nothing seems artificial or cramped. Amazing how everything can coexist at the same time. Old and young are still celebrating late into the night. 

Our time is coming to an end - high time to pack and prepare ourselves for the rest of the journey. After many fare-wells, with such a heavy-heart (again, I have not been here long enough!), but at the same time, ready for new paths; we will now beginn the hike through the wild west of Zanskar. We will be walking through extraordinary wild nature that still seems to be to some extent totally unspoilt. Now we are experiencing completely different aspects, e.g. the enormous increase in road constructions and the strong structural changes it entails. The "old Zanskar" is changing, so clearly visible this year! And again. I see how valuable school education is in these times of change. Helpful to deal wisely and creatively with new demands, to cultivate old, valuable knowledge, traditions essential for survival, and at the same time to weave in creative innovations that make life easier.