Top: The planned Surmang shedra.
Sketch by Stanley Doctor, preliminary architectural plans by Steve
Left: Chakrasamvara (wheel of supreme bliss)
lama dancer at Surmang.
The Surmang Project
See the latest project updates here: NEWS
"I, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, spiritual and temporal head of
the Shambhala Mandala, am completely committed to the development
–Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
"I hold fewer aspirations dearer in my heart than the rebuilding
of Surmang, the spiritual home of the Shambhala mandala."
"My first endeavor on my
return to Surmang was to carry out the last wish of the tenth
Trungpa Tulku and to enlarge the seminary [shedra]..."
Surmang is one of the poorest regions in the world. People
here have an average annual income of $50. Mothers die in childbirth
at one hundred times the rate of women elsewhere in China, on
average. Fewer than two out of every three babies born survive
Despite the extraordinary hardship they face, the remarkable earthiness,
kindness and cheerfulness of the people of eastern Tibet astonishes
even the most callous among us, particularly considering the suffering
they have endured over the last four decades. These people are
as hardy and forgiving as humanly possible.
The Konchok Foundation is endeavoring to meet
the spiritual and cultural needs of the people, which are central
to their traditional way of life.
The Konchok Foundation is directing all its initial efforts to
support the education of the Twelfth
Trungpa Tulku (the successor
to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in Surmang) and to build a Shedra,
a monastic college for the community.
The Surmang shedra is known as Surmang Düdtsi-til. It was
part of the complex of monasteries of Surmang until the destruction
of much of the site in the 1950s. Today, Surmang Düdtsi-til
remains one of the poorest monasteries in Tibet. Most of the other
monasteries have teachers either in the West or in Asia who raise
funds for the ongoing construction and upkeep of their respective
monasteries in Tibet. Surmang Düdtsi-til has no such benefactors.
In addition to the pressing humanitarian needs of the people of
Surmang, the preservation of their spiritual tradition is
extraordinarily important to them. The project to rebuild the Surmang
Düdtsi-til shedra goes to the very heart of their aspirations.
History of the project
- In 2001, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche visited Surmang to meet the
Twelfth Trungpa Tulku and pledge his support for Surmang. In
a special ceremony, he was formally entrusted with responsibility
for the monasteries and their people. Following this visit, together
with Lady Diana Mukpo, the widow of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche,
he established the Konchok Foundation – named in honor
of his mother, Lady Konchok Palden.
- In 2002, Lady Diana Mukpo, who holds the title Sakyong Wangmo,
visited Surmang. She was accorded rare honors by the religious
leaders of Surmang, becoming the first woman to be seated on
a traditional teaching throne. Her visit enabled her to hold
on-site talks with the Surmang leaders and discuss detailed plans
for the future work that will be needed. She was accompanied
by her husband, Dr. Mitchell Levy, one of the Acharyas of the
- In 2003, the Konchok Foundation sent a technical team to Surmang
in 2003, headed by Bob King, the project manager for The Great
Stupa of Dharmakaya, to explore the construction requirements.
The team included John Neiwhorner, a water engineer, to evaluate
needs for a water system.
- In 2004, architect’s plans were commissioned and the
artist’s rendering of the new shedra seen here.
Click image to enlarge
by Stanley Doctor.
Preliminary rchitectural plans by Steve Vosper.
In 2004, The Konchok Foundation raised the first $75,000 required to
begin the construction of the Shedra.
The funds that we raised were
sent to The Surmang Khenpo in Tibet. Khenpo is our on-site
project manager, providing overview and coordination for the
project, including procurement of materials, allocation of funds,
record keeping and managing relations with local officialdom.
At the request of the President of Shambhala, Marvin Ross was at Surmang for the summer. Marv, a long-time member of the Shambhala community, was the English speaking link to Khenpo and the construction process there. One of his jobs was to provide us with documentation, and since he is a terrific photographer, we can enjoy his work on this website.
See the latest project updates here (NEWS)
The master plan for building the Shedra and school at Surmang
includes three phases:
Phase One: Planning and Fund Raising
The initial planning phase was completed in May 2004, and construction
began at Surmang in early June 2004. Crews began excavation for
the foundation of the Shedra. This spring's fundraising campaign
was very successful, and fund raising will continue until the Shedra
Some aspects of the planning will be continuous. For example,
at this time there is a team working on heat and moisture issues
concerning the chosen materials of construction (concrete blocks
made on site.) They are researching the availability of insulation
for the roof, walls, and foundation, and other alternative and
feasible construction methods.
This team includes:
- Steve Vosper, the architect who worked with Khenpo and Bob
and Lindy King in developing the Shedra plans.
- Paul Shippee, an engineer who worked with the concrete company
in Colorado in developing the concrete formula for The Great
Stupa of Dharmakaya and who has been in contact with this company's
branch in China, concerning the shedra.
- David Garrett, an architect in Halifax who is very dedicated
to Surmang, and who is also helping with fund raising.
- Bill Semple, an architect and builder with considerable expertise
and experience working in Tibet on various projects.
Before Marv Ross left for Surmang, Paul Shippee gave him a "Concrete
101" crash course, so that Marv could supervise concrete quality
control. This is a key issue in the construction process anywhere,
and especially in Tibet, where the building sites are generally
remote and techniques are different.
Phase Two: Construction
With Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche's blessings, Khenpo went to Tibet
in early January 2004 to retain a contractor. The contractor, Mr.
Wong, is married to a Tibetan woman who is a distant relative of
Khenpo. (It seems most Tibetans in that part of the world are somehow
related to Khenpo!) The contractor's wife is also a student of
one of Khenpo's teachers in Jyekundo. The Wongs live in Jyekundo,
the closest city and a ten hour jeep ride from Surmang.
Construction of the Shedra as of October
Marv Ross worked with Khenpo and the contractor this summer to
refine the plans for future construction, and to help determine
the upcoming construction costs. Khenpo collaborated with the
contractor to establish a building plan, including the purchase
and transport of all the materials needed for construction.
The costs for the Shedra are assessed on a per square meter fee,
which includes the equipment and workers, but does not include
supplies. We are responsible for purchasing materials and supplies.
Khenpo has purchased truckloads of concrete and rebar for the foundation,
and arranged for their transport from Xining to Surmang. This is
a long and difficult trip that can take two or three days. This
process will have to be repeated many, many times, and Khenpo has
been working hard to get as much material transported at one time
as possible, since this is a very costly aspect of the project.
Members of the work crew making the concrete blocks used for building
the shedra's outer walls. Photo by Marv Ross.
Each building season the contractor will accomplish whatever he
can, given the difficult local conditions, and the relatively short
building season. Much of this will be determined by the funds available
from here, and, of course, conditions on the ground there. This
is much the same as the construction for the Great Stupa at Shambhala
On June 4, 2004 there was a big opening lhasang (purification
ceremony). The contractor and crew then broke ground on the Shedra.
A few days later, Marv reported light snow, with a white dusting
on the hills. At that time, 25 Chinese workers were digging the
foundation by hand. Marv calls them "human back hoes." They
have been digging a foundation trench around the whole compound
perimeter that will house the monks‚ quarters. Also, under
the lhakang, or the main shrine hall, they have been digging 8'
x 8' by 4' deep foundation pylons. At that time Marv reported there
were about nine foundation pylons across the back side of the lhakang.
More will be added according to the load requirements. The contractor
now has a concrete mixing apparatus on site. As there is no electricity
at Surmang, the cement mixer is operated by an electric generator.
The Chinese workers are staying in a house that has been rented
for them and they eat outside. There is an outdoor stove they have
made of mud and cement. There are many local Tibetans also employed
at the site. They drive up the valley in trucks, and bring back
great loads of rocks. These rocks will be broken into different
sizes for foundation holes and the concrete mix. Khenpo has spread
the word throughout the area about the need for labor, so some
of the Tibetans are local, and some are coming from nearby areas.
There is a growing sense of local pride in the project. Khenpo
is quite happy with our progress so far, and he keeps up good relations
Phase Three: Completion
Bob King's original cost projection for this entire project was
$750,000 total, which included furnishings and art work. This estimate
was based on Bob and Lindy's data gathered from their research
about other monastery construction projects they visited in Tibet
last summer. (Due to increased prices of labor and materials in China, the current estimate is $1,000,000 total.) Bob and Lindy went to Benchen Monastery, recently
built by Tenga Rinpoche, and Dzogchen Monastery, which was in its
completion stage last summer. The monastic complex at Dzogchen
is very beautiful, and was used as the model for the Surmang Shedra.
Both projects used similar materials, including the concrete block
made on site.
There are about 31 double rooms planned for the Shedra, and a
few larger ones. There will also be rooms for assistant khenpos,
and of course, suites for Trungpa Rinpoche and for the head Khenpo
and their attendants. All of the living quarters will all have
little yak dung fueled stoves. There will be about 70 monks housed
in the Shedra compound initially.
At present, there are about 120 monks at Surmang at this time,
and around 60 of these will attend the Shedra. There will also
be monks coming from the surrounding region. There is existing
housing at Surmang, so more can be accommodated if necessary.
The proposed site of the new shedra building
is located near the center of this photograph, close to the blue
Our aim is also to help support the operation of the shedra by
providing scholarships for the tulkus, monks and other participants.
This huge project will take approximately five to seven years to complete
fully. This time-frame is based on the technical study carried out
by Bob King on behalf of the Konchok Foundation, and the recent obstacles caused by the harsh Tibetan winters, price increases and the turbulence in China surrounding the 2008 Olympics.
See the latest project updates
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