Last Friday was a big day for the students and staff at Tsoknyi Gechak School (TGS). With their work organized into visual, oral and musical demonstrations, students enthusiastically shared them with Tsoknyi Rinpoche. It is impossible to measure the continuous support that Rinpoche provides for the girls who come to live and study at TGS. In the tradition of the former incarnations of Tsoknyi Rinpoche, he has protects and advocates for them; providing a place to live, learn and be nurtured in a loving environment. He as established facilities and staff for the school while connecting students to the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism; the teachers, monks, nuns, rituals, teachings and traditions of the Dharma.
The special relationship Rinpoche has with the girls was evident in their interactions on Friday as they proudly demonstrated their knowledge in 3 languages (Nepalese, Tibetan and English). Sometimes demonstrations were in the form of songs or plays, sometimes with pictures, but they were always delivered with a smile and enthusiasm. The presentations exhibited their knowledge in the areas of science, math, literature, health, social studies, writing and Buddhism.
It was my special privilege to be the official photographer for this event, getting a front row seat for the demonstrations and witnessing all the interactions Rinpoche had with the girls. I have never performed such a marathon of photography. It was like a four hour wedding shoot. There was a point when I thought I might get a lunch break to regroup and prepare for more but Rinpoche was tireless as usual and visited every class before taking a break. From beginning to end, he gave the students his full attention, care and humor. Once I understood his determination to see them all before lunch, I turned the corner on my fatigue and continued to give my full attention to the presentations.
Photography is an odd experience. While I think that I see the entire image through my viewfinder, there is always so much more in the frame than my conscious mind can grasp. Perhaps some unconscious part of sees more – I’m not sure. At any rate result is a happy surprise (most of the time). This event was no exception. While I was challenged by the tight quarters (the classrooms are quite small) and the light beaming through windows, I managed to capture some sense of the pride and joy in the faces of Rinpoche, the teachers and the girls.
I am happy that I got to witness this event early in my stay here at TGL as it adds momentum to my commitment to work in the school and contribute as much as I can to the girls. It has helped me appreciate the vision that Rinpoche has for the school and for each of the girls; to train nuns to become among the most accomplished Buddhist practitioners and Dharma teachers in the world.