druk white lotus school
Druk White Lotus School was started at the request of the people of Ladakh high in the Indian Himalayas. They wanted a school that would help maintain their rich cultural traditions, based on Tibetan Buddism, whilst equipping their children for a life in the 21st century. Since 1997, Onaway has supported the building of the school and donated regularly to its inspirational work.
Ladakh, known as Little Tibet, is a remote, mysterious and moonscaped land nestling between 8,000 and 13,000 feet above sea level in the high Western Himalayas of Northern India.
The mountains limit the amount of rainfall to less than five inches per year (four of which fall as snow) so the inhabitants, the Ladakhi, rely for their water on streams coming down from the beautiful Himalayan glaciers. This water they channel to irrigate their fields where they cultivate staple foods of barley and wheat. The growing season itself is limited to four months during summertime while the rest of the year remains very cold with temperatures sometimes falling to below minus 40 degrees! Even so, for centuries these peaceful people have lived a self-sufficient lifestyle whilst following their sacred Buddhist path to enlightenment. On that path there was neither waste nor pollution and crime was non-existent. Little wonder then that Ladakh was known as the last 'Shangri-La'!
In recent years, however, as a consequence of tourism and television, this fragile 'Shangri-La' and way of life is being eroded and contaminated.
The Ladakhis now observe 'rich' tourists freely spending in one day as much (and sometimes more) than they themselves are able to earn in one year. Inevitably, this and other disparities have begun to awaken dissatisfaction and greed. Worse, the Western cult of the individual now threatens to destroy their unifying collectivism as a people, undermining not only Buddhist teachings of unconditional kindness and compassion for all, but threatening an economy that has served them well, albeit frugally, for more than a thousand years. Spiritually and culturally they are being impoverished.
the druk white lotus school project
The Druk White Lotus School Project is an initiative of the Drukpa Kargyud Trust under the directorship of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukchen Rinpoche, the head of the Drukpa Kargyud School of Tibetan Buddhism. The Trust itself is under the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and exiled political leader of Tibet.
The school is sited on land donated by local Ladakhis in the green valley of Shey and, of particular interest to Onaway, will provide residential facilities for nomadic and other children travelling from remote areas.
English, the lingua franca of most of India's pluralistic-tongued peoples, will be taught from the fourth year in preparation for the Indian government's compulsory state examinations. But, early education in the Ladakhi native language will be a priority, because harnessing indigenous language is synonymous with a strong cultural identity.
Above all, the school strives to lead the children and parents of Ladakh towards a worthwhile and sustainable future – one based on transcendental Buddhist values
gleaned through centuries. The task itself is formidable for all Ladakhis as they struggle to remain a distinct people and keep their sacred way of life intact.
"It is essential that we take boarders from remote areas (those who are not within travelling distance of the school) so these children have a real chance of an education. Those most in need are from the nomadic communities of the Changtang Plateau – high in the Himalayas near the border with Tibet.”
The energy-efficient school was built using local materials and traditional skills using only Environment-friendly technologies.
The Success of the Druk White Lotus School has not gone unnoticed and at the World Architecture Awards 2002 the school’s architects, Arup Associates (www.arup.com) won the Best Asian Building, Best Education Building and was joint winner in the Best Green Building award.
“... The environmental strategy maximises the sites solar potential to achieve passive solar heating, natural ventilation and day lighting. The sun also powers a water pump that delivers drinkable ground water. The heavy mass of the buildings act as a thermal buffer to mitigate the variations in external temperatures. All materials are local and, where possible, from renewable sources.”
“the Onaway Trust was instrumental at a very early stage in helping us build the environmentally-friendly infrastructure and these awards demonstrate how you and your Trustees had the vision to recognise and support a project with the potential to be a world-class building!" Linda Parkin
Visit the website of the Druk White Lotus School for more information.