"Tashi and the Monk" tells the Heartwarming Story of One Man's Vision of a Safe Haven for Abanconed Children

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14 August 2015
Tashi and the Monk
Photo: Courtesy of HBO
"Tashi and the Monk"
Premieres Monday, August 17 at 8:00 PM ET/PT on HBO
            In a distant village on a remote mountaintop of the Himalayas sits Jhamtse Gatsal (Tibetan for “The Garden of Love and Compassion”), a special school and home for 85 orphaned and neglected children. Founded by former Buddhist monk Lobsang Phunstok, who trained with the Dalai Lama, this unique community gives boys and girls the chance to escape extreme poverty and grow up in an environment where they are free to be themselves and dream about their future.

            Directed by Andrew Hinton and Johnny Burke, TASHI AND THE MONK tells the story of Lobsang, whose own dark childhood led him to create this safe haven, and his newest arrival, feisty five-year-old Tashi, who was neglected and abandoned by her parents. The uplifting documentary debuts MONDAY, AUG. 17 (8:00-8:45 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
          Other HBO playdates: Aug. 18 (11:15 a.m.), 19 (3:00 p.m.), 20 (4:45 p.m.), 22 (2:30 p.m.) and 30 (7:30 a.m.)
          HBO2 playdates: Aug. 23 (6:45 a.m.) and 27 (8:30 a.m., 10:05 p.m.)
            The documentary will also be available on HBO NOW and HBO GO.

          Abandoned by his mother at a young age, Lobsang Phunstok was a wild and misbehaving child when he was sent to a monastery in South India, where, years later, he was selected to undergo intensive study under the Dalai Lama, followed by years teaching Buddhist philosophy in the U.S. and Canada. In 2006, he returned home to India to fulfill a lifelong dream of creating a “community of love and compassion” designed to educate and empower at-risk youth who had been abandoned or given up by families unable to provide for them.

            Jhamtse Gatsal’s newest arrival is Tashi, whose alcoholic father abandoned her after her mother’s death. Tashi defies her teachers, throws tantrums and fights with her peers. Instead of punishing her, Lobsang is reminded of his younger self and shows compassion, assuring Tashi that “sometimes it’s okay to be naughty.”

            The Jhamtse Gatsal staff and the rest of the community work closely together to address the needs of the residents, relying on older children to look out for the younger ones. In Tashi’s case, Lobsang enlists Raju, telling him, “You must help her understand…what is right and wrong…This is your job as a responsible elder brother, OK?”

            At a staff meeting, Lobsang raises the possibility of accepting new kids, acknowledging several hurdles, from lack of teachers to a limited number of beds. “We have more than a thousand requests so far that we received to take the kids into the community,” he explains. “If I am able to say yes to one family, I am saying no to ten families. Some of the decisions that I made I think I have to deal with the rest of my life.”

            TASHI AND THE MONK shows how kindness and empathy can transform lives, spotlighting one man’s altruistic vision and the journey of one troubled child who, with the help of a supportive community, is able to overcome her past and start anew and was the winner of the Pare Lorentz and Best Short Documentary at the 2014 IDA Awards.
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