Taking the Zanskar Vow: The Gratitude Project

I have been a little slow posting my November Art every day projects- but they are happening. And even more delightfully, projects are brewing, bubbling and multiplying!

Yesterday was one of those SF specials- it was warm outside, the local pool was open, the lifeguard let me swim 5 minutes beyond the close time, the sky was magical, and I brushed up close and personal with humbleness and gratitude  several times. What a wonderful way to be alive!

Magical Sky November 3, 2010

Earlier in the day I went to a new cafe on Valencia Street and posted on Facebook something to the effect of geez, $2.25 for coffee, really? I am paying for the atmosphere.  To this one friend commented about – get ready this is a mouthful- direct trade green coffee beans- and escalating prices which are translating to higher prices in US cafes. Another friend respectfully wrote, “In Bali with this amount we can feed our family for a day…. Lucky you Kirthi

To be honest, I am still grappling with how to take this all in. One thing for sure, I am thankful for the reminder that the price of my cup of coffee translates into much more in another country. How this will effect my choices other than supporting direct trade, I am not sure. In the now, right now, I am humbled and honored to be to be part of a world that extends beyond my local neighborhood and arms length experiences.

Last night was the opening night of the 3rdI San Francisco South Asian International Film Festival.  Most every film in the festival is inspiring and yesterday was no exception. Last night was a double header- starting with Terrie Samundra’s beautiful short film Kunjo. This film is quite powerful and evocative and tells a story not often told- that of rural to rural migration and how this affects a community, especially children. What we learned at the Q/A was that this film was shot in the filmmaker’s family village and the process of making the film was just as important as the final product. Translation: Terrie spent 2 1/2 months in India and worked with local non actors to workshop and develop the script with the community. I am paraphrasing here, Terrie has a more  detailed account on her website, but I wanted to take a moment to pause on the collaborative intent of this narrative production and the earnest desire on the filmmaker’s part to empower the people the story was about.

The next film was Frederick Marx’s Journey from Zanskar. Set in Zanskar, a traditionally Tibetan region of northern India, the Zanskari culture and Buddhist practices are dying out. It is a poor region. For children to get an education that connects them to their culture, they must travel to villages far away. At the heart of this documentary are the questions, “How far would you go to save your dying culture?” and  “What does it mean to separate a child from their family to give them a better life?” This film documents the difficult journey of the Stongde monks, 17 children aged 4-12 and handful of parents who travel from Zanskar to Manali in hopes of securing an education. On one hand there is the astounding physical difficulty of the journey and on the other, the amazing presence of love between the parents and children and ultimately the confrontation of what must be sacrificed for a better future. In its more subtle notes, this story reminds us strongly about compassion, the gift of education and the radiance of humanity.

An audience member asked Frederick to give us an impression of how the kids were years later. Although Frederick stated that how the kids felt was something he could never fully understand because it was not his experience, he did tell us one thing-  some kids say they cry all the time because they miss their family and that they are also full of joy to get an education.

How do you hold both of these things in your hands? Perhaps as an exploration that is not a dichotomy.  And as for if this will lead to a better life, one of the monks Geshe leaves us with this offering….will they have a better life? I don’t know. But if I believe they will, there is less worry and less suffering in the now about what may be.

The Stongde monks are now building a school in Zanskar so kids do not have to be separated from their families and so they do not have to make near death journeys for this promise of the better life. People can donate money that goes towards education or take the The Zanskar Vow an invitation to make your own commitment to make the world a better place. You can send your vow to the folks at the Saving Zanskar website and they will be updating the website soon.

My vow? I will live my life with gratitude and help chronicle stories of gratitude. I do believe in the ripple effect, one vibration at a time.

The Gratitude Project: Jazmin’s Story


What will you do to make the world a better place? What are you grateful for?



One thought on “Taking the Zanskar Vow: The Gratitude Project

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