By Suma Varughese
Suma Varughese interviews the 12th Chodo Kenting Tai Situpa at the Palpung Sherabling monastery in the Kangra valley, and is moved by his authenticity and modesty
I met Rinpoche, the 12th Chodron Kenting Tai Situpa at his monastery, Palpung Sherabling, in the beautiful Kangra Valley when I was invited in November as speaker for the Silver Jubilee of the Active Peace initiative floated by him 25 years ago. It was a marvellous experience, and my lasting memory of Rinpoche and his monks was of their genuine and moving humility and hospitality. Rinpoche, particularly, touched me with his disarming modesty and authenticity. He is a small built man with a luminous face and a joyous smile, who is easily able to make much of others – a sure sign of a diminutive ego. He claims to have reached nowhere in his search for Buddhahood, but the air of manifest goodness on his visage says something else. A remarkably gifted individual, Rinpoche is a wonderful painter (see the website www.palpung.org for some of his exquisite work), and a brilliant architect – all the buildings in the Palpung complex were designed by him in traditional Tibetan architecture, glowing with gold, maroon and yellow colours.
He is also a song writer (the theme song for the conference was written by him) and a wonderful singer, I am told. Truly a renaissance man.
Excerpts from the interview:
What did it feel like to be separated from your family as a young child after being identified as a reincarnation of the Tai Situpa at the age of 18 months?
My family was with me. But we were separated when I escaped Tibet, at the age of five. My lamas had to bring me here. My family could not come because there was so much trouble. I remember my first arrival in Bhutan, in India. I saw the train for the first time. It was very impressive. And the first thing I ate was a samosa and a garam chai in a clay pot. I could only finish half the samosa (laughs).
What do you feel about India?
I know India better than any other place. India is my second home. I grew up here. I think India is very special. It has many things which stand out. I travel around the world, teaching dharma. India is a democracy. People are very free. At the same time, very populous. And very, very religious. Of course being such a big country, you cannot expect it to not have problems. But the problems in India are just like throwing rocks in the
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