August 14, 2015

What if All “Troubled” Children Were Raised Like This? {Film: Tashi & the Monk}



Today in the US “troubled” kids are often either medicated and disciplined, or told they need to shape up and get better.

In the high Himalayas, Buddhist monk Lobsang Phuntsok is taking a very different approach. He’s built a community that raises kids from difficult circumstances with loving kindness and compassion.

His community, Jhamtse Gatsal (Tibetan for “The Garden of Love and Compassion”) is the subject of the documentary, Tashi and The Monk, directed by Andrew Hinton and Johnny Burke. Going into the daily life of this place nestled in the Himalayans, audiences see the monk’s journey in teaching children a different, more compassionate way of life and also the struggle of growing up with incredible hardship.


Tashi and the Monk is one everyone should see. Not only because it’s uplifting and has won so many film awards, but also because it gives us another way to reach the “at-risk” or troubled children.

Co-director Andrew Hinton says,

“Lobsang has such a powerful and unwavering belief in the essential goodness of all kids. He kind of relishes the naughtiest or most troubled ones. He has sought them out and immersed them in this atmosphere—what he calls a ‘living laboratory of love and compassion’—and the results have been amazing. What was most remarkable to us was that in the West a lot of these kids would be in remedial schools or on medication or in therapy. The simple truth his work reveals is that people heal people. Lobsang doesn’t do it on his own he does it by empowering the kids to heal each other.”

In just 40-minutes, the film brings to life Jhamtse Gatsal. Lobsang, the monk, calls Jhamtse a “children’s community.” It’s a home and a social experiment where 85 abandoned kids are in a ‘living laboratory of love and compassion’. Jhamtse provides food, shelter, education and love to its many children who have been neglected and orphaned. Here, “they have a shot at something much greater—the chance to become, in Lobsang’s words, ‘amazing human beings’,” Andrew says.


While discussing the film and its potential takeaways, Hinton said, “There’s a Pema Chodron’s quote we came across during the making of the film, ‘Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings.’ That’s pretty much at the heart of Lobsang’s journey from abandoned illegitimate son to adoptive loving father of many.”

Lobsang’s own journey of growing up is what led him to creating Jhamtse.


The documentary shows the many dimensions of Jhamtse; it is not removed from the unimaginable challenges in the region. Through the film, it becomes apparent how it struggles to be a homing

beacon for the children. As Lobsang says in the film, “for every one they accept he’s had to say no to ten other families. Some of the decisions that I made I think I have to deal with the rest of my life.”

The film does not turn away from the backdrop of poverty and hardship, yet it also has so much joy and brightness.


The power of compassion is at the heart of what makes the film so special and so necessary for people to see. One big takeaway Hinton hopes for audiences is that,

“compassion has the power to create deep change in people.”




“A lovely reminder that amongst the darkness in the world, there are also beautiful shining points of light.” ~ Mountainfilm.

“Mountains can be brutal places to live. Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining how Tibetan Buddhism has developed such a keen sense of compassion for all beings. Many westerners may have heard of these profound ideals, but in this film we are able to witness compassion in action. The experience is both surprising and humbling.” ~ Jury at Banff Mountain Film Festival on awarding Tashi and the Monk Best Film on Mountain Culture.


More info:

Find the film here on Facebook.

Read the full story of how Hilton found Lobsang and his school.

Tashi and the Monk airs on HBO Monday 17th August at 8pm ET / 7 C and will then be available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.

If you don’t have HBO or HBO Go, check out the website for more info on other ways to see the film.







Authors: Meredith Smith & Merete Mueller

Editor: Renée Picard

Images: stills from film provided by author

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Meredith Smith & Merete Mueller