On one level, sponsoring means sending Aus$10.00 per month to an unknown person in India or Tibet. However, it seems to be much, much more for many of the recipients. Some sponsees arrive at Sera, after a perilous month or two trek over the freezing Himalayas. They may be shot at, lose fingers and toes to frostbite, generally in very poor health, frightened and homesick. If caught, they face certain imprisonment and torture. They arrive at Sera, amongst 5,000 others, and may sleep on a mat on the floor, with materialistically little else. With a lot of luck, in two or three years time, they may get a sponsor.
After all this, some are so homesick, or concerned for the ones left behind, they go back to Tibet, knowing they may be thrown in prison and suffer the appalling consequences. Others return because their parents are sick are facing extreme difficulties in Tibet and they may want to support their family by being present. It may be that because they now has a very good education and knowledge of the Tibetan culture (Tibetans in Tibet don’t have access to this knowledge) that they may want to return and teach or impart knowledge in some way.
Monks simply want to be of benefit to others by learning Buddhist principles and philosophy, and perhaps go into the wider community to be of practical assistance using their education to become doctors, dentists, nurses, teachers etc. etc.
No wonder these monks sometimes write to their sponsors, “Dear Mum…Dad etc” and asks about their “family”. Sponsorship is much more than sending a few paltry dollars for food and medicine. To a degree, it is food and medicine for the heart.
What can start as an altruistic gift of Aus$10.00 per month for a needy person on the other side of the world, can become a bond of love and compassion, unhindered by the usual sense of gratefulness one experiences when a kindness is shown to another. True giving is when there is no expectation of anything in return. And yet, I believe we get a tremendous gift back….and that’s an opportunity to be selfless; to be concerned for the welfare of another; to regard another and act upon that feeling; simply to touch our own hearts desire to alleviate the suffering of another.