“We survive and thrive only in an environment of concern, affection, and warmheartedness — or in a single word, compassion,” wrote the Dalai Lama in reflecting on how to live a more purposeful and meaningful life. “The essence of compassion is a desire to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being. This is the spiritual principle from which all other positive inner values emerge.”
In 2006, Buddhist monk and the Dalai Lama’s disciple Lobsang Phuntsok put this beautiful teaching into practice by creating a unique community for unwanted children called Jhamste Gatsal: The Garden of Love and Compassion. Located in the remote foothills of the Indian Himalayas, it provides a permanent home for over 85 orphaned and abandoned children.
“Everybody gave up hope on us but at this place you are welcome and you have the opportunity to change, and we will be with you no matter what,” says Lobsang Phuntsok to a group of children in the opening scene of the film Tashi and the Monk. “We need to move forward together, supporting each other, carrying each other. And these little ones, even the naughtiest ones, are the most amazing seat of compassion and love. Someday, they will blossom.”
Among the little naughty ones is Tashi Drolma, Jhamste’s newest arrival. Her story paints both tragic and familiar picture: having recently lost her mother and abandoned by an alcoholic father, she was found eating dirt on the side of the road. A wild and troubled five-year-old, Tashi is a big personality in a small body. During the film, as Lobsang and the community work their magic, we witness her transformation from alienation and tantrums into someone capable of making her first friend and opening up to the world.
Although Tashi and the Monk is available for free on the Jhamste Gatsal’s official YouTube channel, you can support the orphanage by purchasing the film, donating, or sponsoring a child. Complement with a short NPR interview where Lobsang Phuntsok and film director Andrew Hinton talk about the challenges and obstacles they faced during the filming process.