The spiritual way

Features Issue 133 Nov, 2012
Text by Aayush Nirola

Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche is a lineage holder of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen) tradition. He has spread his teachings all over the world and has re-established the Shyalpa monastery and nunnery in Kopan, Kathmandu along with founding the Tibetan Children’s Fund and the Wencheng Gongzhu International Foundation among others. His recent book compiles his teachings under the title of “Living Fully: Finding Joy in Every Breath”, and is a bestseller. Excerpts from an exclusive interview with the Rinpoche:

I was born in this part of the Himalaya, and was raised in India. I attended college in Venarasi. There I was quite a popular student, very good in academics. The professors and teachers were kind and loving. One particular Rinpoche, fond of me, used to go to America. People interested in the spiritual journey from the States had requested him for a teacher and he recommended me. He asked me if I would help them. Everything had been arranged, but I couldn’t go in the end, because I had to go to Tibet that year. Later they again called me, and so I left for America for the first time in 1988. I remember the first place I went to, Stockbridge, beautiful town, home to Norman Rockwell, the famous artist. The lecture was to be in a library, very early in the morning, and it was packed. At the time, my English wasn’t that great. There were all sorts of people from farmers to secretaries to ministers. I saw that people listened very earnestly, they posed questions to me. It made me feel good, energized me to go further, deeper.

People haven’t changed, but our environment has. Life is faster now, yes. But in that, there are two kinds of people, one who have to slow down, retreat and others who try and live life according the pace that’s been dictated. I personally don’t advocate the philosophy that you have to slow down. Everything is governed by natural human instinct and it’s important to remember that we do not want to waste our time while we are here. It’s only natural that human beings are looking for a faster pace because we have limited time in the world. But how do you value your time? Are you just going to eat faster, drink faster, make love faster? It is essential to have the awareness, “your breath and life is very precious”, and how do you enhance it? Whether you retreat or go fast, why are you like this?

If a thousand people show up when I am teaching, maybe they’ll hear me differently. I see some people at different times and we talk whenever possible. Its important to have good Karma. When in calamity, maybe they’ll remember it.

Yes, there are cynics as well. If someone is cynical because they are curious, when I can explain properly, if I can hit the right spot they’ll be the biggest devotees. Some are professional though, cynical for the sake of it. I think being cynical is not a bad thing.

For me there is only one way, the spiritual way. The only way I relate to people is spiritual. In an airplane, airhostesses recognize me, bring me food and then they ask me, “what is life?”, “how do you meditate?” There I see them as real human beings. I put no divisions in business or life, I see people not as businessmen or artists, but human beings.

Yes, when people have agendas with you, you have to be aware of it; when they are not genuine, you have to see that it is their helplessness.

Meditate means, getting used to your natural quality, training yourself for getting familiar to yourself. People think they don’t have to eat food, sleep, etcetera and that’s meditation when it’s in fact revealing your innermost self. Who shouldn’t meditate? Why not? It makes sense.