Few people in my life have impacted me as much as Dr. Kazuko Tatsumura. I first met her at a Christie’s benefit for Tibet House in 2009. What captured my attention was her commitment to build a school at an orphanage for Tibetan children in northeast India associated with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As founder of a network of orphanages around the world, I was captivated.
Although Leila and Hank Luce had been supportive of Tibet House and the Dalai Lama (as well as Don Rubin and the Rubin Museum), I had never met His Holiness myself. That soon changed, as Dr. Kazuko invited me to meet His Holiness in India in 2012.
Next month we are having our second annual gala in support of that school at the Manjushree orphanage – in Tibet House off Union Square. In fact, our foundation now has an endowment fund set up to support the Tibetan orphans of Manjushree in perpetuity.
Join us for this authentic Tibetan dinner in support of the Manjushree Orphanage Endowment on Wednesday, January 24. This year, our Gala Dinner will include film, and other entertainment – as well as some rare auction items to help the orphaned children of Manjushree including trips to Manjushree, Bhutan, and Japan with Dr. Kazuko.
H.H. the Dalai Lama has been supported by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura for decades. Founder of the Gaia Holistic Foundation and a board member of both Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW) and the J. Luce Foundation, Dr. Kazuko has been known as the most prominent non-Tibetan supporter of this project. This fascinating story was first reported here in HuffPo.
The Manjushree Endowment Fund for Tibetan Orphans is managed by the J. Luce Foundation in cooperation with Gaia Holistic Foundation. Gaia Holistic Foundation, Orphans International, Tibet Fund, and the J. Luce Foundation are primary sponsors of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s annual birthday party held each July 6 at Essex House on Central Park South.
So what is ‘Manjushree’ all about? Manjushree (“Mañjuśrī”) was a bodhisattva associated with prajñā (insight) in Mahayana Buddhism. In Tibetan Buddhism, he is also a yidam. His name means “Gentle Glory” in Sanskrit.
Manjushree Orphanage in the village of Tawang is located high up the Himalayas where there has long been a border dispute between China and India. The monastery and orphanage sits at the most northeastern region of India, sharing the border with Bhutan on its west and Myanmar on its east. Over 10,000 feet above sea level, it is situated where winter is long and severe and summer has a three month-long rainy season.
Not only does Dr. Kazuko love the compassionate children of Manjushree, she is enthralled with the mountains there; Tawang is hard to get to – and stunningly beautiful. The land there is full of deep forests and high, snow-capped mountains with a great river running through it.
This area is very rich in the culture of Tibetan Buddhism. It carries special significance as the birthplace of His Holiness the 6th Dalai Lama and home to one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world. Thousands of Tibetans now reside there.
Tawang is the place where His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama – today’s Dalia Lama – first found refuge after fleeing Tibet in 1959. He stayed there for a while before he settled down in Dharamsala. The monastery in Tawang honors the great 5th Dalai Lama and has old things such as Buddhist sutras written in pure gold.
There is a wondrous story about Tawang. When 6th Dalai Lama left his house where he was born, he planted a tree at the garden and said, “I will come back when this tree grows as tall above the roof of the house.” When the 14th Dalai Lama was exiled and got to Tawang, this tree had just gotten above the roof!
Dr. Kazuko explained to me about the Tibetans in Tawang:
These are the poorest of all the Tibetans living in India and their health conditions are not good, with many contagious diseases. Many suffer from tuberculosis that medicines don’t cure well. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is very much concerned about this and recently helped to build a new hospital there.
In 1998, the young Tibetan monk named Lama Thupten Phuntsok founded the Manjushree Orphanage. It was established with 17 children and as now has 254. The Dalai Lama thought it was imperative to have a new and bigger school building for them and so Dr. Kazuko raised $720,000 to help build the stone structure. Orphans International, founded in 1999, has assisted in this effort for the last six years.
Richard Gere and Dr. Robert Thurman, a professor at Columbia University and father of Uma, founded Tibet House in New York along with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I had met Bob at the Christie’s auction and asked him about Dr. Kazuko’s daunting challenge — and importance — to raise funds for a school in this economy. Bob told me:
It is wonderful what Kazuko is doing for those orphaned children, and Tibet House U.S. is pleased to be helping with the project to build a proper school for them. She is exemplifying what His Holiness calls “Universal Responsibility,” by adopting all those lovely kids.
Dr. Kazuko says she is frequently asked, “There are so many orphans in the world – Why Tibetan Children?” She responds:
In my over seventy years of life, I have traveled over 135 countries in the world, seen much and met countless beautiful people and wonderful children. But I must say this strongly, ‘Tibetan people are unique, and Tibetan culture is unique and we must preserve them both, if the what they have naturally can be further cultivated and nurtured in a right environment.’
When His Holiness says, “We must preserve Tibetan Culture,” I think people in general don’t fully understand. He means cultural spirituality. You can learn and preserve painting, dance, music, and food traditions – but these are at the most mundane level. The transcendental aspect of culture is the one the Dalai Lama is talking about.
In this busy world with full of greed and selfishness – this ‘Me First’ environment in which we live – Tibetans’ spiritual culture is unique. Tibetans seem to find happiness in practicing ‘Others before self.’ I believe we need balance on this planet, and Tibetans can give us this equilibrium. I think this is what I saw in the children of Manjushree Orphanage. I want to help these children learn and grow, giving influence to the world.
Second Annual Dinner for Manjushree Orphanage Endowment
Wed., January 24, 2018; 6-9pm Tibet House, 22 West 15th St., NYC 10011 Ticket: $153. Online ticket(s) can be purchased via: http://tinyurl.com/k7qa4wj. Invitation here.
In addition, please join us for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 83rd Birthday Celebration at Essex House on Central South, NYC on Friday, July 6, 2018 at 6:00pm. Tickets are $180. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 799-9711 for more information.
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Children | Education | India | New York | Orphans | Orphans International Worldwide | Young Global Leadership The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation (www.lucefoundation.org) supporting young global leadership is affiliated with Orphans International Worldwide (OIWW), raising global citizens. If supporting youth is important to you, subscribe to J. Luce Foundation updates here. Follow Jim Luce on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.