Buddhist monk Lama Thupstan Chogyal’s Ladakh Heart Foundation (LHF) Hospital is helping in battling the coronavirus in Ladakh. As the state-run Sonam Norboo Memorial Hospital couldn’t handle multiple suspected cases of coronavirus, the authorities sought the help of the 49-year-old monk, who readily agreed to offer the services of his free hospital, which is eight kms away from the main town.
So far Ladakh has recorded 13 positive cases—2 from Kargil district and 11 from Leh district. Of these cases, 10 are from the Chuchot area near Leh town.
LHF has admitted a couple of suspected patients. Once a patient tests positive, they are shifted to a government-run medical facility for treatment. LHF helps to quarantine suspected cases.
The monk is at the hospital round-the-clock to help the local administration in battling the pandemic. The first cases in Chuchot were pilgrims returning from Iran, who had spread the infection to their relatives.
Chogyal wants to make sure that the infection doesn’t spread any further. His heart goes out to children being quarantined. Instead of playing in the open they are confined to rooms. He said that he couldn’t sleep several nights, thinking of their plight.
Chogyal hails from a family which has been home to traditional medicine for decades. But medicine was not his calling, Chogyal realised. He always wanted to be a monk. In pursuit of this, he studied at the local Spituk monastery for a few years and then some more years at a monastery in Karnataka. He then headed for the Namgyal monastery in Dharamshala. Later, he went to South Korea to study the country’s language and Zen Buddhism.
A short academic stint in the UK on a scholarship was abruptly cut short in 1997, as he got busy with work on setting up the LHF, which had become to him by then the most urgent matter in his life. The sight of many sick patients, particularly young children, battling rheumatic heart disease (RHD) at the Ladakh Buddhist Vihara in the Civil Lines area of Delhi disturbed the monk. The monk was in a hurry to have LHF up and running so that patients from Ladakh could be treated in the state itself.
Starting small, by the year 2007, LHF had become a full-fledged hospital with all facilities. So far the hospital has conducted 300 heart surgeries, besides plastic surgeries and other procedures like treatment for cervical cancer.
Every month, LHF receives 500-700 patients, who are treated by some of Ladakh’s best doctors like Dr Tsering Landol and Dr Tsering Norbu, both of whom have been awarded the Padma Shri.
The monk says that the coronavirus pandemic has given him great insights into how to better prepare for pandemics. This is one monk who believes in practical spirituality and has put his religious teachings into real action.