How far would you go to save your dying culture? Two Buddhist monks fulfill their pledge to the Dalai Lama to help save their dying Tibetan culture by leading a group of 17 poor children aged 4-12 on a journey from Zanskar in remote northwest India through the Himalayas. To seek an education—on foot, on horseback, by jeep and bus—whatever it takes. Thirty years ago, when they were children, these monks walked the same path. The 17 children with them now may not return home for 10-15 years or more. This is the story of their incredible journey.
Zanskar is one of the last remaining original Tibetan Buddhist societies with a continuous untainted lineage dating back thousands of years. In nearby Tibet and Ladakh, in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Nepal, traditional Tibetan Buddhist culture is either dead already or dying. The horror of Chinese government design in Tibet is being matched by the destruction of global economics elsewhere. Zanskar, ringed by high Himalayan Mountains in northwest India, one of the most remote places on the planet, has been safe until now. But that's changing.
In 3-5 years a road connecting Padum, the heart of Zanskar, with Leh, the heart of neighboring Ladakh, will be finished. The route which previously took up to two days by car will take only 4-5 hours. As economic growth descends on Zanskar it will bring with it an end to this unbroken Buddhist social tradition. Will the native language, culture, and religious practice be able to survive?
The Dalai Lama has instructed two monks from Zaskar's Stongde Monastery to do everything in their power to insure that it does. The monks are building a school to educate the children from surrounding villages in their own language, culture, history, and religion. Presently, the government school teaches none of those subjects, and is closed most of the year. The nearby private school also doesn't teach those subjects and is additionally unaffordable for the area's poor families. At Stongde, along with indigenous traditions, the children will be educated in the best Western curricula.
The monks are racing against the clock. While they complete the school they are also placing local children in other schools and monasteries in the city of Manali and beyond. This requires walking over a 17,500 foot pass.
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
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