A day at Phugmoche School


Picture of Phugmoche (1992 to 2000)


At the Beginning - table of contents






Table of Contents





               A school comes into being



It was in a monsoon evening in August 1989 that my husband and I found shelter once again in Ngawang Jinpa Lama's cosy Sherpa kitchen at Phugmoche Monastery. After several days' trekking in the dripping wet mountain forest we enjoyed sitting by the fire drinking butter tea. The Lama talked to us about his wish to build a school here at Phugmoche Gonpa, on the ancestral ground of his monastery, to teach the tradition of their forefathers to young Sherpas.


For three or four hundred years Phugmoche has been a centre of the Sherpas' cultural heritage. At the beginning there was just a hermit's cave, then Ngawang Jinpa's greatuncle built the monastery on a huge rock under the towering slopes of northern Solu Valley. About 500 years ago the Sherpas, coming from eastern Tibet, migrated into the valleys south of Mount Everest. Their language, Sherpa, is a Tibetan dialect. Their religion is an ancient kind of Tibetan Nyingmapa Buddhism. Young Sherpas who have been educated at a Nepalese school are often alienated from their cultural background. They do not speak their mother tongue correctly anymore, so they usually do not want to live in or go back to their villages.


Altogether with the monastery, Ngawang Jinpa Lama has taken over the obligation of preserving Sherpa culture. He is one of the main actors of the great spring festival of Dhumje at Junbesi Temple, in the main village of Solu Valley. He performs the rituals of the summer festival on the high pastures - but above all it is his duty to accompany the dying and the souls of the dead as the rituals surrounding death are most important to all Buddhists.


In order to protect this old tradition from rapid decline, Ngawang Jinpa Lama wanted to donate part of the Gonpa ground to the Sherpa community, and build a school on this land. Financial problems had prevented the Lama from carrying out his purpose until then.


Friends of Nepal Association  (Freunde Nepals e. V., Munich, Germany) offered their help, and only six months later I could hand the first donation over which made it possible to begin with the construction work. The 8th May 1992 was found to be the auspicious day to inaugurate the school in a solemn ceremony. On this occasion the first 15 students were registered.