Boudha, Nepal is a special place. It’s considered one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu. The ancient Buddhist stupa of Bouda (also called Boudhnath) is one of the largest in the world. The region is also home to a growing population of Tibetan refugees who have built over 50 monasteries throughout the region. Boudha is a center of enlightenment, pilgrimage, and prayer, made all the more mystical by its proximity to the mighty Himalayas. According to The Lonely Planet, “this is one of the few places in the world where Tibetan culture is accessible, vibrant, and unfettered.” Interestingly, Boudha and Lhasa have always been linked by trade routes, so today’s intercultural community is no surprise. Boudha is a vibrant and culturally rich city but many of its residents have never had access to formal schooling. Enter: Vajrayana School.
The school was founded in 1991 by two brothers, Chhewang and Tsering Sherpa, with the goal of serving the local community through education. The school is kept alive through the efforts of international volunteers. Volunteers are attracted to the region for good reason—the opportunity for cultural and spiritual discovery is everywhere, the landscape is breathtaking, and the people are known for their kindness and generosity. The school is just a two-minute walk from the famous Boudhnath Stupa. Volunteers are welcome to attend lectures on Buddhist practice and philosophy and language lessons in Tibetan and Nepali. They experience the many meanings of the word privilege.
One of the things that sets Vajrayana School apart is its commitment to quality over profit. They welcome good teachers of every ilk and do not demand program fees, donations, or participation in fundraising efforts. Like any community project should, they gratefully welcome donations, but quality education is their priority. Their students come from every walk of life: urban businesspeople, rural villagers, older students, and Buddhist monks and nuns. Volunteers experience a unique and vibrant cross-section of Nepali and Tibetan culture, all within the confines of a three-room schoolhouse.
Many of the town’s Tibetan refugees have lived in the area since the unsuccessful uprising against the Chinese in 1959. The community of Tibetan residents is robust and well established. Indeed, it is as much a draw to Boudha as the indigenous Nepali. There is a large community of foreign students in Boudha, many of them studying Buddhism. This contributes to the richness of the community and may ease the transition for foreign volunteers. This is a community that welcomes many different kinds of people.