17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.

THE 17th GYALWA KARMAPA

Travel Log - In Nepal and India with Lama Puntso

See the original in French

December 5, 2017

Khenpo Gyaltsen : His Life

The day of my arrival at the monastery, I saw a monk with a shovel energetically digging at the foot of a stone staircase. He was preparing the soil for the visitors, so that it wouldn’t be dangerous to walk there. I recognize Khenpo Gyaltsen, the principal of the monastery. He gave me a large smile and said something in Tibetan that I didn’t understand. The next day, it was he who gave the teaching on Buddha Nature. I couldn’t keep myself from asking him about his life. Here, I give you the entirety of our exchange.

Studies and Retreats

I started my training as a monk in Tibet at the Karma Kagyu monastery in Ner, in the Kham province, at twelve years old. I learned reading and the different aspects of rituals for eleven years. When I was eighteen years old, I took novice (guetsul) vows. One year leater, I left for the monastery’s retreat center, where I stayed for five years, until I was twenty-three years old. Then, I truly felt myself to be a monk, and I knew that if I continued to preserve my vows, it would be of great benefit. From age twenty-three to twenty-seven, I assisted the retreat master in the monastery.

Following that, for over a year, I studied the Nyima texts on Dzogchen in the famous monastic university Harri Dza. Then, I went to Garwang Rinpoche’s little monastery, and, for three years, I continued to study different aspects of philosophy.

In Search of the Master

In 2002, I went to India, partly by car and partly on foot depending on the circumstances. I left Kham, went through Lhasa, and wound up in a refugee center not far from Sharminub.

I really wanted to meet Shamar Rinpoche. I stayed in Nepal for a week waiting. At the refugee center, they asked me where I wanted to go, and I told them I wanted to go to Shamar Rinpoche’s monastery. But they didn’t know where it was, so I said I wanted to go to the Gelugpa monastery Serra because I knew a lot of people there who had come from the same place as me.

But before going to Serra, I went to Bodnath and met with Karma Wangchuk, a friend from my region. We had tea together. My friend told, “You should go back to Tibet. But if you don’t do that, you should go to Dzongtsar Monastic University (shedra) because it’s a good place to study. It’s very far away from here, and there are a lot of monks there. There is another university call Shedra Ling, and it’s very well-developed. On the other hand, Shamar Rinpoche’s monastery is just beginning; it’s not fully developed. But in the future, it will grow.” That is what my friend told me.

I went back to the refugee center, and I wrote a letter asking to go to India. I asked to go to Dzongtsar University. On the way, I stopped in Dharamsala to get official papers: my passport, etc.

I still intended to go to Shamar Rinpoche’s monastery, but I didn’t speak Hindi, and I didn’t know anyone. It was a difficult situation. I wanted to meet Shamar Rinpoche, but my friends in Dzongtsar dissuaded me; they told me that Shamarpa could be anywhere. They told me I should come to join them at the university; that they were on break just then. They said I should wait a month and then see where Rinpoche was.

After a month, I went to Bodhgaya. Many people went to see the Dalai Lama and Tulku Orgyen. I went with them. Then I went to Lumbini for two days for the Sakya Monlam. I still hadn’t seen Shamar Rinpoche, and I didn’t even know where he was. So I stayed with an acquaintance in Bodnath. I went to ask Chogyal, Shamar Rinpoche’s brother, where he was. But for six months, I was not able to meet him, and I stayed in Nepal.

When Lopon Tsechu passed away, Shamar Rinpoche arrived for a week of ceremonies. I was finally able to meet him!
Shamarpa: What is your objective, your goal?
Khenpo: I would like to do lifetime retreat!
Shamarpa: I will have to consider this possibility.

Responsabilities

For five or six days, I practiced with them, and I went to Swayambhu Monastery. Then I learned that my father has just passed away coming to India from Tibet.

At this point, Shamarpa gave me a lecture. He told me that I came and went as I pleased and I was not even able to meet my father. He told me that he would help my father, as I had not been able to. He told me to go to Dzongtsar University. My idea had been to enter retreat and receive instructions from Shamar Rinpoche, but instead I spent ten years at Dzongtsar Shedra, up until 2011. Each year, I met with Shamar Rinpoche during the Kagyu Monlam. Shamarpa thanked me for having applied his instructions. Each year, I continued my studies.

On November 19, 2001, I went to Bodhgaya. There, I met Jigme Rinpoche. We said hello.
Jigme Rinpoche: When do you finish your studies?
Khenpo: I just finished.
Jigme Rinpoche: What is your goal?
Khenpo: My goal is to go into retreat, but I know very well that that is not what I need to do.

Eventually, I no longer had a goal. Jigme Rinpoche invited me to come to France, but I did not have the necessary papers. Then, Shamar Rinpoche called me on the phone one night. He told me that now I was a khenpo (scholar), I should go to Kalimpong Shedra. Of course, I accepted.

For me, the connection with the master and his instructions is much more important than great studies or great practices.

In December 2011, I left Dzongtsar Shedra and went to Kalimpong, where the school year begins in February. I stayed at Kalimpong for five years as the principal. After five years, Shamar Rinpoche left us, and Jigme Rinpoche looked after the shedra. He and Gyalwa Karmapa sent me here, to Sharminub Monastery. I arrived on May 12, 2016, and I became the principal. So, here I am, principal of both places. I explained to Karmapa and Jigme Rinpoche that I couldn’t look after both places, and that I wanted to devote myself full time to Sharminub, but they didn’t accept.

Today at Sharminub, the left part of the monastery is dedicated to specialization in philosophical studies; some specialize in the middle way, some in epistemology, etc. They delve deeper into one subject. Last year, twelve acharya (those who have completed their philosophy studies) came from Kalimpong shedra. Last year, they studied the Abhidharmakosha (Buddhist cosmology and psychology), and this year they are studying Prajanaparamita (the perfection of wisdom). Today is the beginning; we have to begin with things as they are. There are not many people, but this will create a foundation to progress step by step.

The right part of the monastery will be consecrated to international students, for foreigners who likewise wish to study philosophy.

I trust Shamar Rinpoche more than anyone. To be able to take part in his and Karmapa’s activity is an amazing opportunity for me.

Perhaps I look quite busy, with the children and the other activities. From the outside, this might seem difficult. But I don’t experience any difficulty. Why? Because I consider myself very lucky to be able to help Shamarpa and Karmapa.



Lama Puntso

Dhagpo Kagyu Ling - Landrevie - 24290 Saint-Léon sur Vézère - France - 0033 5 53 50 70 75 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.