Druk White Lotus School – is being built in
Ladakh under the patronage of the Gyalwang Drupka. He is the spiritual leader of a Buddhist
lineage and his request to the architects, Arup Associates, was to base the layout of
the school on a Mandala. It is a symbol which represents many aspects of Buddhism. Giuseppe
Tucci, a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote that a mandala is, �above all, a map of
the cosmos� It represents �the whole universe in its essential plan.� As such, a mandala
is an aid to thinking, about the patterns of human life, about the laws of nature and
about the �hidden order� of the cosmos. Broadly interpreted, a mandala is therefore
a wonderful basis for the design of a school. In the Vajrayana Buddhism of Ladakh and Tibet,
landscapes painted on thangkas help explain the world. So do schools. But the Druk School
is secular and operates within the Indian school system. This makes it a particularly
good place to explore and develop ideas connected with: Green Buddhism and Environmental Buddhism.
We all want sustainable landscapes. Ladakh is a mountainous region. It is on the
Indian side of the border with Tibet and has close links with Tibetan culture. Geographically,
Ladakh is a high-altitude cold desert. Temperatures range from minus 35 degrees centigrade in
winter to plus 35 degrees in summer. Rivers bring water from the mountains to the valleys.
Where they flow the vegetation is lush. Elsewhere, the land is arid – but some desert plants
can grow in the dry sands and screes washed down from the mountains.
The landscape design for the Druk School is conceived as a garden mandala within a landscape
mandala. Its components will be:- A White Lotus Court at the heart of the school
A Garden Mandala � in which the school community can grow as a place to develop Wisdom, Virtue
and Concentration – in Sanskrit, and in Buddhism, their names are prajna, sila and samadhi.
The campus includes school buildings, designed by Arup Associates, and a garden designed
by the landscape architecture department at the University of Greenwich in London.
The scenery outside the school campus will be interpreted – as a Mandala Landscape. It
can be a visual aid to understanding the natural and the man-made features of the landscape.
The natural landscape of the Indus Valley includes
The Sky. It is usually an intense blue – with white clouds forming mysterious shapes.
The Mountains. They run from northwest to southeast and reach heights of over 7000 metres
The Rivers and their vegetation. Most of Ladakh’s rivers flow west, following the grain of the
mountains The man-made landscape of the Indus Valley
includes The Farms and Farmland – which are dependent
on irrigation. Meltwater is brought from glaciers and snowfields
The Stupas and Stupa Fields – which commemorate the teaching of the Buddha and the lives of
his followers. The Gompas, which are monasteries. Around
Shey, they are built on rocky crags between the valley floor and the high mountains.
The Indus Valley has an amazing geological history. Two hundred and fifty million years
ago, the Indian tectonic plate was on the south shore of Tethys Ocean. It then broke
away and spent 50 million years crossing what is now the Indian Ocean. Then it pushed on
– into Asia. So the land on which the school now stands was once on the north coast of
the Tethys Ocean. Today, it is fifteen hundred kilometres from the Indian Ocean.
Looking south from the Indus, you see the Zanskar Range of mountains. Its rocks are
made of sandstone, which was once the floor of the Tethys Ocean. Looking north from the
Indus, you see the Ladakh Range. Its rocks are granite, which poured from the earth�s
molten core as India forced its way into Asia. This extraordinary landscape context, can
provide the Druk School with a growing landscape to inspire the body, the mind and the eye.
In making a garden within this landscape, the design team draws inspiration from the
emblem of the Drukpa Lineage. Drukpa means ‘Dragon’ � and the emblem shows two dragons
protecting a Dharma Wheel, a Lotus and a Treratna. This encouraged the team to associate the
greening of the campus with four dragons: a Dragon of the Mountains – which stores water
in its snowfields. a Dragon of the Rivers � which transports
water to the Druk campus, helped by an underground river, boreholes and a drip irrigation system.
a Dragon of the Deserts – which provides the sand and silt to make a fertile soil
and a Green Dragon which lives in the Valleys – and will provide plants – to shade the school
and supply it with fruit, flowers and animal life.
In addition to this �Dragon Aid�, the school is being helped by human volunteers.
They include school children, professional staff and donors. The construction is funded
entirely by charitable gifts. If you would like to help, please email [email protected]
There is much to be done. The remainder of this video will show the plans – for making
a Dragon Garden in Shey.