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18November2017

Interview with His Holiness

Blogger Ajay Jain has posted a Q&A with His Holiness on both his blogs (AjayJain.com and Kunzum.com) and has also tweeted about the same on his Twitter page.Titled 'Interview with His Holiness, the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa', the articles give an introduction of the Drukpa Lineage and its humanitarian efforts. The Q&A elaborates on the aim of the Pad Yatra, humanitarian work in the 4 fields in the Himalayan region and the Live to Love initiative. Ajay has also posted links to the "Walking on the Rooftop" website for more details on the Pad Yatra and His Holiness's blog.

It is not very often that one gets an opportunity to meet someone of the stature of His Holiness, the Twelfth Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the 800 year old Drukpa lineage. I did for an exclusive one-on-one chat on the eve of his pad yatra from Manali to Leh starting on May 23, 2009. Click here to know more about it.

The Drukpa Lineage follows the Mahayana Buddhist tradition in philosophy, i.e. the philosophy of "getting enlightened for the benefit of others" and the methods are based on the Tantrayana teachings passed down from the great Indian saint Naropa, who was born in 1016 in a West Bengal royal family. The Drukpa Lineage is one of the main Buddhist schools throughout the Himalayas including Bhutan, Tibet, China, Nepal and India, with four to five million students. The most revered monastery in Ladakh, the Hemis Monastery, comes under the Drukpa school. Click here to read more about the lineage.

Excerpts of the interview:

How come the work of the Drukpa lineage is better known than the lineage itself?

The followers of this lineage, called Drukpas, have always worked away from the media, practising the Live to Love way of life. They have used to dedicating their own time for the benefit of others, hardly taking care of themselves in the process. The selfish way of leading life is not for them. They work to help others through meditation, by interaction, by giving aid or any other way they can. Our lineage thus did not get an opportunity to get very well known. You know Hemis but you do not know Drukpa (laughs). You plan to go to Bhutan, but would not have known about the Drukpa lineage until now. You know Druk Air and all other brands called Druk but you don't know they are named after our lineage. You know the brand but you don't know the mother company.

We have not been promoting ourselves. We have been interacting with people, helping them but neglecting ourselves. For us, serving others is all-important. The lineage means nothing without it. It is a crucial phase for us when people don't know about us and hence they don't respect us. This is very sad. At the same time, we have a lot of followers through the Himalayan region, and we are trying to promote the lineage through the pad yatra. But our principal purpose is to benefit others by promoting the Live to Love way of life. We cannot forget this, nor ignore the people.

Religions like Jainism (I am a Jain myself) and Buddhism, similar in many ways, have been focusing more on content and their work rather than branding themselves. For most people, Buddhism is all about the Dalai Lama.

(Laughs) Exactly, I agree. We all have still to know a lot of things. Buddhism is not just the Dalai Lama, and Drukpa is not just me or the Hemis festival. We have a lot of deep and profound teachings that we need to share and have people understand. Through the activities of our lineage such as Live to Love and other things, we want to be promoting the contents of our lineage. I want to educate people, especially to our own people in the Himalayas region, about the value of the lineage. The main goal of this is to promote a more peaceful way of life amongst them. And doing so within their own territory. For example, without coming down to the cities with all their pollution and other problems, people in the Himalayan region can have a nice, happy and successful life if only they know what their lineage represents. If they don't know the value of the lineage then they will obviously have to look for something else. And when they do, they will either find nothing or they will find something rubbish.

How do these people resolve the conflict when they see a world through the eyes of media and tourists, which may be very different from their own values, culture and traditions?

I know this is a problem. That is the reason why I built a big school in Ladakh as a part of the Live to Love activities. I am hoping the school will start teaching people to balance the conflict and confusion you are talking about. The root cause is lack of education. Many of them have very nice, modern education but certain type of modern education doesn't help. It gives you a very unbalanced way of looking at the world. You need the right type of modern education without losing your own traditional education. You have to teach them the value of the lineage. You can give them very good education in places like Bombay or Delhi if you have the money, but when they come back they are totally lost. They can speak very good English or any other language, know computers, dress in jeans or whatever the modern way of dressing is. But they are lost in their mind, they don't know what to do now.

The Himalayan people also seem to live a largely innocent life. I remember a four year old boy asking me for a lift on the way back from school in a village near Leh in Ladakh. In a big city like Delhi, one could get into trouble giving a lift like this. But this boy seemed to quite confident about asking a stranger for a ride. (I did give him a lift on that occasion)

(Laughs) That's the kind of peace and value they still have. In way it is also naïve for a young child to seek a lift like this. But these people also have a certain kind of confidence, which is a reflection on the value of the lineage, and on the value of the spiritual practices they follow. And this is what we have to try our best to protect and to preserve. We have to protect the deep and profound culture still to be found in the Ladakhs, Zanskars and Lahaul Spitis. And this goes back to our lineage. You don't know their language but if you listen to their traditional songs, they are always talking about and praising the Drukpa lineage. Therefore, as the leader of the lineage, it is my responsibility to preserve what you would call their culture or lineage or anything else you may refer to is as. We don't want them to lose their values. The bottomline I am seeking is they should not lose the value of their own life. We all have a very valuable life and that life has to be respected and appreciated. Each has his own way of life. We have the mountain life, you have the city life, someone else has another life. We all need to sit down and talk harmoniously. Where is the self realization of the value of life? You have to be able to appreciate your own life. We have to realize that both our own life and this world are all very beautiful. Once we are able to, then the whole world would be very very peaceful. Right now we are all very greedy and very aggressive. My property is not yours. Your property is not mine. We create barriers. Even if you are a couple, you are not truly a couple because we have barriers in the name of religion, in the name of sect, culture or whatever else. It is not good. Ultimate truth or spirituality is everything. The value of spirituality is to merge together harmoniously. Peaceful living is the thing. So it goes back to the understanding, the education. I am not going against English or modern education, no. It is very important to live successfully in this world. Why not? At the same time you need to know the value of traditional education. We are trying to achieve that balance. Maybe we are not that effective, but we are going in that direction. Not only me but my colleagues and my whole lineage is going down that path.

Rising tourism means pollution, environmental degradation and erosion of cultural and aesthetic values. In some ways democracy comes in the way and one cannot ban concrete monoliths from coming up. The Himalayas are losing something every year. Again, how does one resolve these conflicts?

It again comes back to what we are discussing. Education is what we need, and that is why I built this school. Not only this, but I want to build many schools across the Himalayan region. Because education is not balanced, people see big and modern buildings in cities like Bombay say why can't we build this in their town? Those cities are full of diesel and other fumes, so why not here? Who cares about polluting water? They use plastic, and no one cares about its effects. No one wants to recycle. Who cares about how the next generation suffers? You don't think about your own children and grandchildren. The reason lies in lack of education. The lineage is trying to impart this education, with the help of other NGOs. And I am requesting from the depths of my heart for the Government of India to benefit and support people's lives in a balanced way. I am not saying they are not doing anything, but they need to do more.

Talking of traditional values, families would always give a son to the monasteries to become a monk for life from childhood onwards. But this seems to have become more an exception than a rule now. Is this affecting the religion?

It is a concern but it is not the most important concern. Being a monk or a nun is not the only solution to benefit others. Whether people become monks and nuns or not, they need to be educated. That is more important enrolling monks and nuns. I don't think that is the main aim. Incidentally, a year ago, I had to stop the intake of nuns as there were too many who wanted to join in. In some ways, it is also not good as we need women to produce sons and daughters. Some areas are in need of greater population. Some of the villages in Ladakh are disappearing, which is a bit sad because disappearance of people means disappearing of a lot of culture and beauty.

I will not mind or worry if not a single person wants to be a monk or a nun. Because without being one there are many ways of practising Live to Love.

How does one lead a life of peace when pursuit of material needs can lead to competitive market competitions?

It is all about ultimate truth and relative truth. The education of ultimate truth has to be kept in your prayer, while the practice of relative truth has to be always kept in your mind. If the world is very competitive, you go and compete. No doubt about it, go for it without any second thoughts. If you have to compete for the sake of your family, why not? Of course you have to do so without harming anyone. My teachings would say go ahead but don't forget your ultimate education and spirituality. Whatever you do, you have to live harmoniously.

When you interact with people on your pad yatra what will you be talking to people you meet on the way? Will you be assuring them that their way life is correct and they should not get swayed?

I will be doing what you are saying. I will boost their own confidence, the confidence in their lifestyle. I think their current lifestyle is pretty good. Of course, at the same time, I will show them ways to improve their own lifestyle. They have to have modern education also. We cannot ignore it. Otherwise, from a relative world point of view, they will be the losers. You cannot say you are not a part of this world; you cannot escape from this competitive world. I say go and get modern education but don't forget your principles. When I go and meet them I will say you are a good boy and a good girl, and continue doing what you are doing but don't get swayed by the trekkers and other outside influence. Some, not all, of the western trekkers can be destroyers and drag your attention towards the opposite kind of life. The locals get attracted by these pens and bom-boms (a slang His Holiness came up with). These tourists should not give these bom-boms in the first place. Tourists should respect the lives of the Himalayan people are very clean, pure, happy and contended. So why are they tempting these boys and girls by sharing these bom-boms and things? This is not good actually. They should be a bit careful.

While achieve may not be the right word, what are you hoping to achieve through it?

Yes, achieve is not the a very good word. I do not really have the desire to achieve anything. However, from the faith or religious point of view, we need purify our bad and negative karma for peace in the world. I want to show the peoples in the world, especially peoples in the Himalayan region, those who live poorly or let's say humbly, that they are not poor or backward. They are the kind of family we want to visit and are very admired. This will give them confidence in their lifestyle and they will not feel sad or left out or unfortunate. By visiting them they will feel appreciated.

As leader of the school, I would like to interact with them myself rather than sending my representatives. And boost not only their confidence but mine too.

India is home to peaceful religions like Jainism and Buddhism but we are still troubled with so much violence. Why this irony?

I don't think we have so much trouble, I think we are doing quite well comparatively. Don't you think so? India is not that bad. Maybe I am being a little naïve. Yes, we have some problems but not as much as, say, the Middle East. We are quite peaceful and comfortable as place to be in.

You seem to use modern technologies yourself, including writing your own blog!

Modern technologies are not at all bad. If you know how to use them, modern technologies are something we should really be appreciating. They give us a very good life. Many people criticize them, but from my point of view they are quite good. I have many technologies in my office and even in my private room which I use personally.