The Weekend Leader - Unsung hero

At Ladakh, a soldier turned monk is a fine educationist now

Aparna   |   Leh


Vol 2 | Issue 28

He was a soldier who dropped the gun to be a monk - but even that didn't give him peace of mind. So Bhikkhu Sanghasena decided to work towards educating the underprivileged in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir to help them match steps with the rest of the world.

"I joined the army at the age of 17 in 1974 and served for four and a half years. After meeting a Buddhist monk and hearing the preaching of the Buddha, I felt I was not leading a pure Buddhist life. I decided to quit the army to be a monk,” says Sanghasena, 53.

Standing tall: Bhikkhu Sanghasena’s (centre) service to his community has made him stand out among his peers (Photo: IANS)

"But living a monk's life was not enough," says Sanghasena, who is from Timisgang in Ladakh. He returned to the state in 1986 and realised that progress had bypassed the region.

His first step was to start the Mahabodhi Residential School, an educational institution in Devachan, Leh, in 1992 with 25 girls from far-flung areas. Five years later, he started admitting boys too.

Sanghasena has opened three more branches – one in his hometown of Timisgang (where 130 students are studying), one at Bodhkharbu (116 students) and another at Nye (36 students).

The monks and nuns at the centre are given formal education "so that if they plan to return to normal life, they have the skills to earn their livelihood," says Sanghasena who also runs a school for the blind.

Many of the first batch of girls who studied at the Mahabodhi Residential School, which is up to Class 10, are back after completing higher studies from places like Bangalore as well as Malaysia to take their guru's dream forward.

Tsewang Dolma is just 25 and she has already taken charge as principal of the main school, which is affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and where about 480 students are studying. The difference between this school and others in the region is that here education is free.

"Four of us have joined here. One is a meditation and yoga guru and two are hospitality managers and both are trained in Malaysia," said Dolma, adding that the school’s alumni are pursuing teaching, MBBS, aeronautical engineering and nursing in various parts of the country.

Ladakh has a population of 117,232 with a literacy rate of over 60 percent and its capital Leh is growing commercially -- many schools have come up, the market has expanded, new roads, guesthouses and office buildings are being constructed. And Sanghasena is part of this growth.

In two decades, Devachan has been turned into a small town and the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, spread over acres, has a meditation centre, a hospital, an old age home and hostels for boys and girls. It is in this campus that the school is located. - IANS

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