Sera Je Food Fund
Taking responsibility for supporting these practitioners is extremely worthwhile because they are preserving and spreading the entire teaching of the Buddha.
Supporting Monastic Health and Education
The Sera Je Food Fund provides three nutritious meals daily for all 2,500 monks living at Sera Je Monastery in southern India. This service provides one of the most fundamental needs for life – food – and allows the monks to focus on their studies without the burden of sourcing and preparing their own meals.
The Sera Je Food Fund began in 1991 when Lama Osel Rinpoche, the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe, entered Sera Je Monastery in southern India at age six. It is customary for a monk’s sponsor to make offerings to all Sangha on the day of officially entering the monastery and Lama Zopa Rinpoche wanted the offering to be of the greatest practical benefit to the monastery itself. After discussion with the abbot of Sera Je Monastery, it was determined that the most beneficial offering would be to create a food fund whereby all of the monks at Sera Je Monastery could be offered quality meals for free. Out of his incredible compassion, Lama Zopa Rinpoche was not simply offering lunch on the day of Lama Osel Rinpoche’s entrance to the monastery but, without precedent, taking on the responsibility of providing meals to every monk at Sera Je for the rest of their lives.
Initially, the fund offered money to each monk for lunch. At that time there were 1,300 monks and the annual cost was about US$25,000.
It became apparent that it would be much easier for the monks to have the meals cooked and offered, so in 1997, Lama Zopa Rinpoche offered US$25,000 for a new kitchen and began paying the salary of seven fulltime cooks. At that time there were 1,900 monks and the annual cost was about US$175,000.
In 1997, six years after starting the fund, Lama Zopa Rinpoche visited Sera Je Monastery. At that time, many of the older geshes, some with tears in their eyes, thanked Rinpoche and spoke of how the fund was benefiting the monastery. Monks could now attend all the morning debate sessions instead of taking time out to prepare meals. Additionally, the fund alleviated the great burden teachers carried while providing for students who had no resources.
In 1998, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the Sera Je Food Fund took on the responsibility of offering dinner to each monk.
In 2003, in addition to offering lunch and dinner, breakfast began to be sponsored by the Sera Je Food Fund three months a year. At that time there were 2,300 monks receiving meals and the annual cost was US$240,000.
In 2008, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the Sera Je Food Fund took on the responsibility to offer three meals a day to all 2,500 monks of Sera Je. Osel Labrang, took over management on the ground, ensuring the quality of the food and managing all aspects of buying and preparing the food.
In 2012 In addition to offering all the meals to all the monks at Sera Je Monastery the Sera Je Food Fund also took on the responsibility to offer breakfast to the 800 monks who attend the Sera Je school.
Currently there are 2,500 monks benefiting from the food fund (3,300 for breakfast) and the annual cost is US$280,000.
Please read "Life in Sera Je," by Geshe Thubten Sherab to learn more about everyday life at Sera Je Monastery.
In the Tibetan tradition, it is customary for monastics to support themselves. In addition to providing for their own housing, individual monks are responsible for purchasing and preparing all of their meals. As many of the monks are refugees from Tibet or from refugee families living in India, they have very little money for quality food and, consequently, were often malnourished and ill. Before the Sera Je Food Fund, most monks at the monastery never had a full stomach. Now, for the first time, they are well-nourished, and this makes a dramatic difference in the energy they are able to devote to their studies. Additionally, group preparation of meals and use of a communal kitchen allows more time for the monks to apply themselves to their studies without the added worry of cleaning up and preparing individual meals, monitoring their individual health for adequate protein and nutrition, etc.
Mandala magazine highlighted the Sera Je Food Fund in April-June 2009 and January-March 2011 as their featured project. Please read both of these articles for more information, photos, a curry recipe for 2,500 monks and more!
“If you offer with the recognition that they are the guru’s pores,” Lama Zopa Rinpoche said in 2011, “then that is an unbelievable way to collect merit. When you offer to many Sangha who have the same guru, then you are making offerings to that many pores of the guru. This is the easiest way to collect skies of merit by offering. By offering even just one candy or flowers or even one grain of rice to a statue of Buddha or even a visualized Buddha, you collect skies of merit. It is much more powerful than offering to the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) as well as all the statues, stupas and scriptures existing in all directions, so there is no question if really offering to the same guru’s disciple. These benefits should be understood so that when you make offerings to the guru’s pores that you think correctly. This is the best business.”
There are extensive prayers and dedications made by the monks at Sera Je for those who contribute to the fund. These dedications will continue to generate merit for those donating to the fund for as long as the monastery exists.
Rangjung Neljorma Khadro Namsel Drolma (Khadro-la) said the following about offering to the Sera Je Food Fund in June 2012: "I had heard that [Lama Zopa] Rinpoche was sponsoring all the meals for the monks at Sera Je Monastery [through the Sera Je Food Fund]. The monks there are upholding the Dharma and the lineage. I am really moved by such actions. Learning about this gave me a boost, so that if there was anything I could do to be of help to Rinpoche, I was ready to offer it."
US$10: Three vegetarian meals a day to one monk for one month
US$120: Three vegetarian meals a day to one monk for one year
US$780: Three vegetarian meals a day to all 2,500 monks for one day
US$5,460: Three vegetarian meals a day to all 2,500 monks for one week
Photo gallery of daily breakfast offered to all 2,500 monks by the Sera Je Food Fund.
Photo gallery of seven days of lunch offered to all 2,500 monks by the Sera Je Food Fund.
Photo gallery of seven days of dinner offered to all 2,500 monks by the Sera Je Food Fund.
At present, the food fund provides three meals daily for all 2,500 monks living at Sera Je Monastery. As more monks arrive, the need for nutritious meals increases daily. The total cost to offer meals to all the monks is about US$280,000 per year. When the fund was originally set up, an initial endowment of over a million dollars was raised. However, the population of the monastery has since doubled and the endowment is now rapidly decreasing. Our aim is to grow the endowment, ultimately making the fund self-sufficient. To do that we need to raise approximately US$5 Million.
On behalf of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, we would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude to all of the kind benefactors who have been contributing to this project over the years and supporting Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s vision.
Please rejoice as this is the twenty-second year that FPMT has been offering food to the monks at Sera Je Monastery. The Sera Je Food Fund has offered over 36,719,000 meals. We currently offer 2,847,000 meals per year, 7,800 meals every day!
Letter of thanks and appreciation from the Sera Je Abbott to FPMT and all benefactors of the Sera Je Food Fund.
We would especially like to thank the students of Cham-Tse-Ling, Amitabha Buddhist Centre, Root Institute, Losang Dragpa Centre and Yeshe Norbu Appello per il Tibet for their continual, generous support. Without all of you, this incredible offering would not be possible.
January 2013: Rejoice! The 3,000 monks of Sera Je Monastery are offering 9 days of prayers and pujas dedicated to all our kind and generous benefactors. More....
October, 2012: Lama Zopa Rinpoche made a rare visit to the Sera Je Kitchen. More....
June 2012: FPMT was able to send US$115,000 to Sera Je Monastery. This contribution covers the next six months’ worth of meals for all 2,500 monks currently studying at Sera Je. More....
Received May 2012: "Rejoice for the Wonderful Food Fund! A Devotional Tear Dropped in the Rice Bowl" By Geshe Thubten Jinpa. More....
To make a tax-deductible donation:
Or simply send your check in US dollars payable to FPMT Inc. and write “Sera Je Food Fund” on the memo line.
1632 SE 11th Avenue
Portland, OR 97214-4702
The Sera Je Food Fund is a project of FPMT Inc. and is administered by FPMT International Office located in Portland, Oregon, United States. All donations made to this fund are tax-deductible within the United States in accordance with IRS Code article 501(c)(3) to the extent allowed by law.
For more information please contact: Holly Ansett, Charitable Projects Coordinator.