Tibetan Buddhism

Text and photo © Pam Portugal Walatka

photo of Rinpoche
"Change yourself, don’t try to change others," said Khen Rinpoche Kachen Lobzang Tsetan during a talk at Yoga of Los Altos. He said that patience and compassion are the basis of Tibetan Buddhism.

Yoga of Los Altos, under the direction of long-time Los Altos resident Andi Bruno, sponsored several events with Khen Rinpoche, the Abbot of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in southern India.

"If you don’t want suffering, then find the seeds that bring you peace," he said. The seeds of peace, he explained, are generosity, altruistic mind, patience, and compassion. These are not instantly obtainable, but rather the result of years of practice.

Wearing maroon and saffron robes, and maroon socks, the Rinpoche sat cross-legged on an ottoman before starting his talk. At the scheduled time, he consulted his watch, stood up, and delivered his talk standing. Middle-aged, tan, and apparently strong, he spoke exuberantly in difficult-to-understand English; he got his points across by repetition and careful enunciation of critical concepts. He kept the sold-out audience enthralled with his humor and directness.

Like many other Tibetans, he smiled more than not, and seemed to find many things funny, such as when he couldn’t remember the fifth item he was using to illustrate a point. "One is missing," he said with a laugh.

While making appearances at Yoga of Los Altos, Stanford, and elsewhere in the Bay Area, he is staying in the Los Altos home of Robbie and Gail LaRoque.

He was born in Jammu-Kashmir, India. Ruth Hayward, the director of the Panchen Lama-Tashi Lhunpo Project (which contributes to his monastery) said, "The sweetness of Tibetan culture is still there, in India, compared to what has happened in Tibet.".

Buddhists, he said, do not believe in a creator, nor in blind beliefs; concepts must be proven to be true. "All Buddhas, including the original Buddha, are human, the best humans." He said that all sentient beings, even insects, have the seeds of Buddha-nature within. One must fertilize the seeds, pull the weeds, and tend the growth till harvest. Obstacles to growth are jealousy, pride, depression, and anger. One can learn to remove these obstacles. "It is not quick, not just a year. It is important to make the effort. The practice can take more than a lifetime; mental consciousness continues to the next rebirth. We are born, we die, born, die, many times."

He said that to become pure and luminous, one needs the body, the senses, and mental stability. "The mind controls the body; what controls mind? Daily study and meditation."

Daily action is the key, he said, to conquering mind-created problems, such as anger. "If you think you are innocent and others are wrong, you have problems."

Tibetan Buddhism suggests methods to remove the impurity of anger, pride, jealousy, or depression. "Don’t go under its control. Humans have intelligence; learn how to use it to change changeable problems." The methods of change are based on loving kindness and enduring practice. These methods must be combined with wisdom, the wisdom to recognize the reality of phenomena. "The mind makes mistakes. The mind might project ‘snake’ when seeing a coiled rope. People often project their problems onto others, seeing ‘snake’ when there is no snake." Khen Rinpoche recommends changing yourself instead of trying to change others.

He said it is possible to "be Buddha; bring peace in a world for the benefit of all sentient beings."

"Think about anger before it happens, notice it coming. Slowly, you can learn not to blow up." With patience and compassion, he said, you can destroy hatred and anger. "Those causing you problems are your best teachers. The problems are not outside, but inside."

Like the Dalai Lama, Khen Rinpoche avoids trying to convert people to Tibetan Buddhism. "I’m just sharing ideas about how to bring change to yourself and learn how to be happy." The Dalai Lama usually says that whatever religion you already have is the one that is right for you.

To learn more, and to donate to Khen Rinpoche's projects see:

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