Kunphen is derived from the Tibetan ‘Kun la phen pa’, which means ‘helping all living beings’.
The Kunphen Foundation was established by Geleg Tsering in 2009. Geleg was born in Tashi Jong and his family still lives there. The confrontation with the lack of proper living standards, poor education and little education and work prospects made him determined to set up the foundation, which strongly aims at improving the local situation.
Tashi Jong is a village of Tibetan refugees situated in the Himalayas of Northern India. The village was founded in the late 1950′s. Having foreseen the imminent coming of the communist Chinese, the 8th Khamtrul Rinpoche left for India with a group of 16 monks and reincarnate lamas. In Eastern Tibet he had been the head of Khampagar Monastery, which had over 200 branch monasteries, nunneries and retreat centers. It was considered one of the foremost monasteries of the Drukpa Kagyü lineage. In 1969, they moved to Himachal Pradesh in North India. They settled in the peaceful Kangra valley on 37 acres of land, which was named Tashi Jong, Tibetan for Auspicious Valley.
Nowadays Tashi Jong consists of
- monastery of around 300 monks
- a lay community of about 450 people
- a group of highly realized yogis called Tokdens. In Tibet the Tokdens lived in retreat centers or in caves. In Tashi Jong there is a retreat center with all the facilities needed for extended periods of seclusion. At present, there are around thirteen retreatants, who have been practicing for many years, and who have not set a definite conclusion date as yet
- other monks at Khampagar are studying Buddhist philosophy, and training in ritual activities and practicing different tantric rituals
The village is know for its annual festival of ritual dances called Cham, generally known as ‘lama dances’. Cham is a tantric meditative practice adopting the form of very special dances, where the Tibetan Buddhists perform in full costume according to each particular ritual.
The living standards at Tashi Jong are not very good. There is water shortage and problems with hygiene, health care and education. There are too little job prospects because craftsmenship is not attractive for all young people. This makes Tashi Jong dependent on outside aid. But in time, the community wants to be self-supportive.