Teaching our traditional language at Serkong School
New Bhoti textbooks, alongside support to pass on Bhoti – the key to our culture, traditions and the Buddhist philosophy – to the next generation
Bhoti, which is actually Standard Tibetan, is the language that has traditionally been spoken in Lahaul and Spiti. It has a very long history in Spiti Valley – as a religious language and as the common language of the population (both spoken and written). The oldest Bhoti scripts still preserved in Tabo Monastery date back to the 11th century AD.
Seven Bhoti teachers, covering all students
Due to the importance of Bhoti, both historically and in the present day, all monks at Tabo Monastery and all students at Serkong School learn to read, write and communicate in the language: it is our mother tongue and the key to our culture, our traditions, and the philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism.
We have seven Bhoti teachers at Serkong School: four were trained at the College for Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarah, Dharamshala, and three are nuns from Dolma Ling Nunnery, near Dharamshala. They provide Bhoti teaching for students from kindergarten age to Grade 10.
Developing new textbooks
We previously had no textbooks or teaching materials for teaching Bhoti. When Khen Rinpoche Tulku Tenzin Kalden came to Tabo Monastery as abbot, he began the process of compiling Bhoti language textbooks, and we supported him. The textbooks use words the younger generation will find useful in their daily life, and also include stories and historical facts, as well as tests and quizzes. The textbooks are printed at Sarah Printing Press, Dharamshala.
We hope that our students will become masters of the Bhoti language and will use it to carry forward our precious culture.
Author: Chhetan Zangpo (Venerable Zangpo la), Head of the Monastery Administration and President of the Institute of Studies in Buddhist Philosophy and Tribal Cultural Society at Tabo
25 March 2021
Photos by Venerable Padma Chottar