Staying connected |

Staying connected

For the past six years, Tibetan Buddhist monks from Gaden Shartse monastery in India have come to Nevada County – giving talks, visiting schools, creating sand mandalas and raising funds to support their monastery.

Last January, Grass Valley residents Melanie Sullivan and Menlo Macfarlane finally returned a visit to them, Sullivan said.

Sullivan – a member of Tibetech, a local Tibet support group – spent 32 days at Gaden Shartse. She bought two desktop computers for the monastery and a nearby Buddhist nunnery, and spent the major part of her visit teaching basic computer skills and educational software to the monks and nuns, Sullivan said.

The monastery and the nunnery got a laptop each, as well, she said.

While Sullivan bought the two desktop computers herself, money raised by local musician Saul Rayo and the Grass Valley Taiko drummers helped purchase the laptops.

“When I was at the monastery, they didn’t know who I was, but they knew I was from Grass Valley,” Sullivan said. “There is a very special connection between them and Nevada County.”

The monks meticulously preserve every newsletter from Nevada County schools and every newspaper story published about them in binders, Sullivan said.

“It really made me aware of how precious our relationship is with them and (how precious) what we do, is to them,” Sullivan said.

Donations built hospital

With the money raised over the years from their tour of the Americas, the monks have built a meeting hall at the monastery that can accommodate 3,000 to 5,000 monks, an 18-room guest house and a hospital, Sullivan said.

“The hospital now stands virtually empty,” she said. “There’s a tour coming here (in the U.S.) and another going to Europe specifically to raise funds to outfit the hospital.”

While in India, Sullivan, the director of Internet marketing at a Grass Valley business, taught at the monastery school as well as the nunnery.

“I taught computer classes to monks aged 5 through 17 for two weeks,” Sullivan said. “I taught them an English learning software, kindergarten learning-to-read alphabetical software, an arithmetic software. We taught them how to use a digital camera, which we left with them, how to size a photograph for the Internet, how to install software and set up peripherals. We also taught a typing program to older monks.

“The greatest treasure of the trip was working with the young monks and nuns – the joy of perceiving the progress they made using the technology we brought them,” Sullivan said.

Cyber portal to Nevada County

While the residents of Gaden Shartse monastery had limited computer skills, the village of Mundgod, right outside the Buddhist settlement, had a cyber cafe with high-speed broadband Internet service, a computer school for children, long-distance telephone booths and ATMs, Sullivan said.

On their days off, some monks and nuns do visit the cyber cafe to stay connected with their friends and family via e-mail, Sullivan said.

“My ultimate objective is to open a portal between Nevada County and Mundgod,” Sullivan said. “About $50,000 is needed for the portal project and less than $10,000 has been raised so far.”

The portal would offer tele-medicine support to the monks and to the hospital at the monastery, Sullivan said. It could help the monks learn English, as well as help them share their culture, teachings, and philosophy with the world, Sullivan added.

Sullivan said the non-violence and compassion of the Tibetan culture inspired her serve the monks and the nuns.

“I think they have something to offer to the planet, that they are a living example of an evolved, altruistic society – a society that does not use violence to solve problems,” Sullivan said. “I think the technology is the vehicle to spread awareness of such a culture and give people hope that it can be done. We can move out of this existence of wars and rumors of wars.”


To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail or call 477-4229.

• For more information about the Gaden Shartse monastery in Mundgod, southern India, visit

• For more information about the nearby nunnery, visit

• Both Web sites were designed by Melanie Sullivan of Grass Valley. For more information, contact Sullivan at 272-6135 or

– Soumitro Sen

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