Chökyi Gyatso Institute (CGI) in Samdrup Jongkhar, Dewathang, Bhutan, is unique in many ways. It started as a small temple built by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s maternal grandfather, the late Lama Sonam Zangpo. After a 10-year renovation, the monastery entered the final stage of reconstruction in 2015. While adhering to a time-tested traditional program, the monastery is a testing ground for some of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s most forward-thinking innovations in monastic education.
CGI is a shedra (monastic college), offering a thorough education in Buddhist philosophy to more than 140 monks. It is also an active monastery with a busy schedule upholding the practice lineage of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, including annual drubchos and drubchens, based on Khandro Sangdu, Pema Tseyi Nyingtik, Vima Ladrub, Minling Dorsem, and Phagma Nyingtik, as well as many other practices.
But what makes the shedra truly outstanding is its commitment to the environment and the community through its collaboration with Lhomon Education and the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative (SJI). The monastery is one of the first to declare a Zero Waste policy, encouraging the community to reconsider the habit of offering packaged biscuits and snacks, instead putting great value on traditional weavings, home-churned butter, locally grown organic vegetables. The monks have learned and instituted a number of sustainable practices since the launch of SJI in 2012.
Rinpoche’s vision is to have a body of socially engaged, educated monks who are informed and involved in the world around them. Young monks at the shedra are participating in a pilot project to develop alternative, holistic curricula, integrating art and the environment into the classroom. Rinpoche named Drubgyud Tenzin Rinpoche, the incarnation of Lama Sonam Zangpo, as the head of the monastery in 2015. At Rinpoche’s request, Drubgyud Tenzin Rinpoche developed a ground-breaking new curriculum for novitiate monks, introducing them to the core concepts of the Dharma through interactive play, music, and arts. For two hours each day, Lhomon Education also offers a secular education with math, science, English, and social studies classes. In addition to these education programs, KF supports the basic needs of all the monks.