Bimala Lama Yonzon and Buddha Tsering Moktan married in 1993. Bimala, from
the small village of Lisankhu located in the District of Sindhupalchok, in Northern
Nepal. Buddha, her husband, is from the same district but from the village of
Sunkhani. Both are Tamang, Indigenous Peoples of Nepal. In his youth, Buddha
was exposed to district level activism when he became a member of his student
union organization where he was introduced to Marxist socialist ideals. This
education and exposure to Marxism and sociopolitical philosophies were new,
unique, and even shocking to a young man living in a small village in Nepal.
Consequently, the seeds of activism were planted for Buddha, and according to
him these concepts were never far from his mind even in his early professional
endeavors. Prior to marriage, Buddha worked in the thangka painting
selling thangkas and continued to do so for several years into his marriage. In
1994, the couple had their first and only child.
In 1999, Buddha traveled to Australia to attend a thangka painting exhibition and
ended up staying for 6 months, assisting a Nepalese friend with his art shop. He
later returned to Australia in 2000 as an invited lecturer on thangka painting.
During his second trip, Buddha explored the idea of working in Australia for an
extended period to send his earning back to Nepal; he stayed for three months.
In this period, Buddha's confidence increased, as his lecture had been well
received. He came to realize that he had a way with words and found pleasure in
speaking in front of a crowd. He reevaluated his position about living in Nepal,
that he was committed to the country and that perhaps his talents could be of use
there. This was quite contrary to the trend of Nepali men who often sought work
opportunities and hope of a better life outside of Nepal. Up until this point,
Buddha had been given the opportunity to interact with the wider world and to
generate a profit while doing so. As his sales career in Thangka progressed,
perhaps due to his early exposure to activism, he was not satisfied with
entrepreneurship without social responsibility. Buddha recognized that the skill
set he had acquired as a salesman, the gift of speaking to crowds of people he
gained while lecturing in Australia and the connections he had made over the
years could be focused into the endeavor of social enterprise.
As a result, Dharmadhatu Foundation was founded as an organization to
respond to the social and economic conditions of historically marginalized
peoples of Nepal. The personal shift in Buddha's life from a focus on profit
making to social enterprise was not widely appreciated nor accepted by friend,
coworkers or family for that matter. Firstly, he had to convince his wife of such a
proposal that had drastic implications on their life. Once Bimala had taken to the
notion of this shift in focus to the more social, Buddha and Bimala moved, jointly,
moved forward towards elaborating and living the mission of DF. In its earliest
incarnation, the efforts of Bimala and Buddha were to provide educational
opportunities to marginalized children in Nepal, which meant for them the taking
in of several children into their home.
They not only provided an educational opportunity to these young people but for
some, also shelter, food and guidance in a familial environment. Among some of
these young people emerged leaders who shared the same vision as the
foundation, later to become team members working toward the same vision as
well as stewards in their communities to promote the foundations social agenda.
With the efforts of this team, DF has been able to not only expand their programs
to the rural areas of Nepal, where the need is often the most but also to their
partners. DF has worked with grassroots activists and rural village communities
who have enthusiastically shared their expertise to enrich the efforts against the
struggle against the marginalization of Nepalese as well as international partners
and continue to open doors to global partnerships.
Only those who dare to dream
can change the world*
Indeed, seven years ago we were daring to dream, nothing but dream. We were
not only dreaming but also were sharing our dreams while encouraging others to
have a dream too. Suddenly our world had begun to change. Those students
who joined with our dream have grown up. Some of them, having completed their
studies have become professionals. Rural Indigenous and Dalit women who
suffered from internal conflict in the country had become a part of our dream and
for them we have imparted life supporting skills through training in the traditional
painting of "thangka' and Utilization of this skill in hands had made them to dream
of a new life, to make a life, in the consumerist societies of luminous Kathmandu.
The numbers of our dream actors are increasing. The new generation of
dreamers have sequel was joined DF as by working thangka artists. We, having
organized door to door awareness programs, workshops, various meetings for
two years uninterruptly and at the end culminating in the helping to establishment
of the Nepal Association of Thangka Artists (NATA) and Kunpen Cooperatives
that had helped to sustain dreams of a golden future.
Meanwhile, the world of our dream had begun to expand. Unknowingly, several
aspects of our lives and world have made a home in our dream. Noteworthy
endeavors include: Specially, we have launching a movement called "Struggle
Against Marginalization in Nepal (SAMAN)" to help ending the suffering
experienced by historically marginalized Indigenous Peoples, Women and Dalits
also formerly known as untouchables. Through this movement, we have
dreamed of a world that will see the ending of all kinds of discriminations and
marginalization through this movement. This movement, having touched lives of
so many rural peoples of Nepal, has generated a foundation that could see new
dreams. Yes, we need a heart or mind to conjure such a dream. We possess
Nepalese hearts and minds, and rather diverse Nepalese hearts and minds.
Friends, our hearts and minds are Nepali. I am here to challenge or question the
notion that our dream will be identical but how could our dreams be European,
American, Malaysian, or Arabian dream etc.? Even if it is a dream, shouldn't it be
of our own cultures and circumstances? Thus, we have to see the Nepali dreams
from within our own cultures and circumstances. Towards this goal of
constructing a truly unique Nepali dream, For which we have dreamed
established "Center for Cultural Dialogue –CCD" in each of our project areas
and have decided to run "Culturally Appropriate Community-based Development
–CACD" projects. In accordance with these ideals, DF has begun pilot project in
Makawanpur district, Shikharpur VDC, is being implemented collecting and
weaving new dreams. And we appeal to all of you, to join hands together with us
on the journey of these dreams.
But friends, right now, at this moment I have returned to the reality after a long
journey of dream. At this moment my head isn't swinging as the head of Poet
Srawan Mukarung's Vishe Nagarji. Why wouldn't the head of Vishe swing when it
was Vishe who helped covered bodies and was made untouchable by the sacred
proclamation of Maharaja the great? Truly my friends my head isn't swinging
because I have just returned from the journey of the struggle against
marginalization, created by that sacred proclamation but rather I feel a
tremendous lightness of my body and mind. Friends, our journey of struggle is
also the journey of self-search too. Sage Patanjali has said;
When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary
project, all your thoughts break their bonds: your mind transcends
limitations, your consciousness expands in every directions, and you find
yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties
and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater
person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
Yes indeed friends, we have just recognized ourselves, our potential selves, and
have begun the movement, towards have changing ourselves and are trying to
now our sites are on changing the world too. Thus friends we are calling upon
Transforming Self. Transforming World.
Friends, likewise let's move ahead by transforming self, and transforming the
world. Tathagata Shakyamuni had taught us to;
"Go forth on your journey, for the benefit of the many, for the joy of the
many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, for the benefit
and joy of mankind."
- Clarissa Bynum wrote this article as narrated by Buddha and Bimala. Clarissa worked as a volunteer for nine
months helping writing and developing projects. She with her husband Piero Passacantando had also visited
our project site in the rural village of Shikharpur, Makawanpur district. Piero, a Fulbright student studied
Thangka painting and iconography with us and collaborated with our student artists Sherap and Dawa for an
art project GEOMETRY. Their joint works were exhibited in the Siddhartha Art Gallery in Kathmandu. Piero
has been helping us by getting commissioned works of Thangka painting for our student artists. Sygrun
Bynum (Clarissa's mother) has been helping our students who are under the program ‘Self-help Art and
- DF has frequent visitors and students to coming from west to our home in Boudha Kathmandu. One of our
foreigner students Talya Zemasch-Bersin from USA was in Nepal under SIT Tibetan Studies, fall 2005. She
wrote this quotation in a hand made Greeting Card she made for us. Her paper "Change in Motion: Tradition,
Modernity, and a Shifting Tamang Identity" focus on the work and changes made by dharmadhatu foundation.