Working with the Dalai Lama

History of the Tibetan Refugees in India

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans fleeing with him. Currently, there are 37 Tibetan refugee settlements across the Indian subcontinent, which accommodate over 100,000 Tibetans. The Tibetan refugees, despite displacement, have maintained their rich culture and tradition, but they face many challenges. Years of conventional farming have depleted the soil and decreased crop yields. Concerned for their financial futures in the settlement, the youth are leaving in large numbers to find other work in India’s urban centers. The community’s elders worry that there will be no one in the next generation to carry on the spiritual and cultural traditions of Tibet.

In 2002, the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) adopted a pivotal policy introducing organic farming methods in a push to transform the settlements into paradigms of sustainable agriculture. This philosophical commonality laid a strong foundation for the partnership with the Himalayan Institute’s Energy Farming program. Representatives from the Tibet Fund noticed this commonality and introduced the Himalayan Institute to the CTA.

When Pandit Tigunait, Spiritual Director of the Himalayan Institute, met with Samdhong Rinpoche, the Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, it was clear that there was a great potential for collaboration. The prime minister sent Chimey Rigzen, secretary of agriculture, to visit the Institute’s project in Cameroon, where he got an in-depth look at the Energy Farming program and how it could manifest at the Tibetan Settlements.

These early discussions culminated in a meeting with the prime minister in Honesdale where he gave his blessing and approval for the project to begin. Later that year, a delegation from the Himalayan Institute met in person with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who also gave his support for the collaborative project.

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait with the Dalai Lama

The Himalayan Institute was pleased to host His Holiness the Dalai Lama in January 2001 at the Maha Kumbha Mela in Allahabad, India. Watch segments from the Dalai Lama’s address to a crowd of thousands, as he shared the stage with Pandit Rajmani Tigunait and other prominent spiritual leaders:

A Solid Partnership, Years in the Making

2007 The Tibet Fund learns about the Himalayan Institute’s humanitarian projects, in particular its work with sustainable agriculture.
April, 2008 Pandit Tigunait and Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche meet at the Tibetan Government-in-exile’s offices in New Delhi.
June, 2008 Chimey Rigzen, Tibetan joint secretary of agriculture, visits Himalayan Institute Cameroon center for two weeks.
July, 2008 Professor Rinpoche visits HI headquarters in Honesdale, PA and gives his feedback and blessing for a collaborative Energy Farming project to serve the Tibetan refugees in India.
March, 2009 10,000 pongamia seedlings are planted at the Tibetan Rabgyeling Settlement
May, 2009 Himalayan Institute representatives meet with the Dalai Lama in New York City.
November, 2009 The Energy Farming program expands to include the Bylakuppe Settlement.
Spring, 2010 HI members from the US travel to the Tibetan Settlements and help plant a pongamia tree plantation at the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.

After a successful three-year establishment period from 2009 to 2012, the Energy Farming project has taken root, and is now fully managed by the local Tibetan settlements.