He was born in 1967 in a very small village of about two hundred people in the province of Manang, which is in the western part of Nepal. His parents had five sons, they wanted at least one or two of them to join the monastery; it is an honor and a way of accumulating merit for the family. His parents had a disagreement about who should join the monastery, him or his younger brother, and finally they decided on his younger brother. They brought him to Kopan Monastery, but Lama Yeshe rejected him, saying that he was too young, although Lama had accepted others of the same age. I guess he didn’t have the karma in this life to be a monk. Then his parents brought him to Lama Yeshe and Lama accepted. So I had the karma.
The Master from the New Generation – Geshe Thubten Sherab
Geshe La, It is clear that change is the real essence of our existence, so in your opinion what kind of changes would you think is the best?
I will consider those changes more meaningful and more worthwhile, if that brings improvement and growth, as far as education is concerned and as far as individual is concerned, if the changes that transforms person to become more better, more compassionate and to be able to make them realize and take more responsibilities and to cultivate more wisdom. Then the changes are revolution and purposeful. And also in terms of education, yes to be able to have more knowledge, better knowledge not only that, to be able to integrate and implement that knowledge into their own life for a better change, so that it brings positive result or consequences for not just oneself but to the people around. The society that we live in, the country that we live in, the world that we live in, so those kind of changes are of the most valued and more worthwhile.
Geshe La, In your opinion what do you think from where we can learn about responsibility and about sincerity?
I think, one type of learning is taking a lesson from those great beings, such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama and all others great beings who had made a huge positive contribution in the world and also from some other people who have made a contribution in some small ways in their own society. By looking at them, how they were able to make those contributions and how they were able to bring a positive changes, mostly reflects about their sense of concern and their acknowledgement of that responsibility. They took their responsibility to their heart and whatever responsibility that they were given or they took, projects the amount of their dedication and their sincerity. Because of that it brought them lot of personal satisfaction, lot of positive fame and people respect them for that and people listen to what they say. since they embodied their belief, because of those and of course also it has bring lot of positive to others that we can see, so with that kind of by understanding that and learning and also from your trying to relate to our own experiences and try to see when someone has taken a responsibility and tried to work sincerely, whether it becomes more effective when you are trying to do something or when you trying to do something without taking a responsibility or without sincerity, how much you can really make it happen. so it is quite clear even we analyze or investigate our own experiences, it quite clear the more responsibility you take, the more sincerely you work, it bring a positive result not only for oneself but also for others, so for both oneself and others, that’s quite clear, that kind of understanding that we can learn from our own experience by reflecting on that and also by reflecting on others we are able to do that…
Geshe La, It’s obvious that education alone is not worth achieving, so what do you think the other way around or the alternatives are?
I don’t know whether we can say that education alone is not enough. I think it might depends on how you define education, but definitely I think the modern academic education alone is not enough or effective to solve lot of the problems that we see in the world on a individual basis and in a country and in world at large. Just as His Holiness the Dalai Lama mentioned many times. I think Krishnamurti also had mentioned that many times, and also Lama Thubten Yeshi. So the modern academic education system alone seems just a little incapable of resolving all the apparent problems that are prevalent in this world, what seems to be lacking is the human value such as true compassion, love, tolerance, taking responsibility. I think in modern education these values are missing and because of that those highly educated young people, despite of all their well decorated degrees and achievements, still lacks the sense of responsibility for the society that they live in, the world that they live in, the country that they live in, for them it’s all about themselves. And I think that is the big problem for the individual and for the society itself.
So what I believe is, if the modern education includes faculty of studies on human valves, morality and ethical responsibility, which I mentioned before. So then that will help people to become more human, otherwise slowly the humans might become more like a robot, machine, where they have all the information and all the knowledge but no real emotions to be able to understand others concern, others feeling and to be able to reached others and to be help others and in a way also to be able to feel oneself. Slowly and gradually not only you don’t feel about others concerns, others feeling, you also lose understanding of your own concerns and your own feelings. Then you will become just like a machine and a robot, indifferent to your own feeling and there is a possibility of becoming like that in the future, unless the education on human values, such as love, compassion, tolerance and sense of concern and sense of responsibility for community, country and world were not installed in the overall molding of young minds through educational system.
Geshe La, What do you consider to be your most significant achievement to date in the educational reforms of Kopan Monastery
I don’t know. I don’t think I have made any significant impact or changes, which I think have brought about complete transformation. But I do believe that I have started to sowed a seed and off course it needs lot of effort, lot of perseverance, patience, lot of hard work from everyone, the administration, the staff, the teachers, the students, in order to help create a condition for that seed to fully blossom into a plant that only provides fruits and shelters but also spread its fragrance. So that to happen, I think there is much more to be done than what has been done so far. One of the things that I believe is. One of the changes that I tried to bring is that I tried to make the teaching more student centered rather than teacher centered and we have had a lot of workshops on that and I think it will continue to have in future as well. This is one of my wishes that every teacher is equipped with more skills that enable them to implement the techniques that they have learned in those trainings and create an environment that makes learning more enjoyable rather than a force institutional act.
One of the problems that we faced constantly not only in our monastery but in most the schools around in the world is that students don’t enjoy learning because there are lots of pressure, burden and the reason why they feel so much pressure, why there is so much burden is, because they don’t enjoy what they are doing and if they enjoy what they are doing then I don’t think that there will not be any pressure or burden. Like for example, when you go to party, you can go for 24 hours and yet you don’t feel tired or pressurized or burdened, because you are enjoying it, but when you are studying even 2 hours seems like a burden, too much pressure, tiredness because you don’t enjoy it. So to bring that kind of skills for the teacher, so that learning becomes an enjoyable experience for the students, they can learn while they are at the same time having good times. I do see some positive outcomes from the trainings that we have had but there are still lot more to be done and still lot to be achieved. However this is what I feel that I have managed to contribute and this is what I think I have been able to achieve. Then I think; now especially the younger monks have the more opportunity to learn more subjects, so their understanding of the world externally and internally will be broader, thereby they will have a better understanding of themselves and also to be able to help others more effectively. So for that there is a need of facilities and I think with help of all the board members and all the staffs, off course Late Khensur Rinpoche no doubt and Zopa rinpoche. We have been able to build this new school building which has all the facilities to make sure that education deepens and extends further than the lights can go.
Geshe La, What do you think where will Buddhism be in hundred years time?
In one of the Buddhist tenets, like many other it says there is no past and future, whatever that is present. According to that tenet we cannot predict future because it’s unpredictable. Anyway what I want to say is that I cannot predict future, how and where Buddhism will be in 100 years time, but if you just look how Buddhism is spreading in the world, I think I will believe that the form of Buddhism will change in 100 years time just as Buddhism has changed in every culture along the years, integrating some of the significant cultural heritage. However I have a firm believe that in 100 years time Buddhism will have its roots grounded in most of the western countries, since Buddhist philosophy and its implication in dealing with human problems are far reaching and most effective to western psychology.
As the number of educated people increases, they will find Buddhism and its philosophy more relevant and more scientific in terms practice and in terms of transforming mind and becoming spiritual, moreover in terms of dealing with not just personal problems but problems prevalent in our community. In Buddhism we have an absolute authority even to analyze Buddha’s own word that clearly indicates some sort of freedom of investigation and analysis, this kind of practice I think will suit western view point in search of reality and truth, the answer that they will come up with after their investigation will transform their view point and will lead them to the path of cessation of suffering. Thus I think that Buddhism will grow and spread even more in years to come.
Geshe La, One final question, what would you advice to all younger generation of Himalayan community?
The first thing I would say is that, just try to read and listen to H.H the Dalai Lama teachings and advices, which he has given many times in the east and in the west, which you will get anywhere, either in books or audio CD. For Himalayan, we have by culture and by religion this wonderful diamond and the value of which many of us does not understand. The value of our own culture and religion is highly revered and respected more in the west than the east as a matter of irony. Now more and more educated people whether in west or in east are showing interest in unlocking the deep ethical sense of Buddhist understanding. So to understand the value of this precious diamond which we Himalayan people have inherited from our culture and tradition, we must now learned and try to understand its philosophical stand point rather than just being blind about its essential core, because of this lack of receptiveness of going into the essence of Buddhism, we have now somewhat failed to some extent in understanding Buddhism in spite of being Buddhist by birth.
So to take a good care our culture and religion, we must try and understand the practical implication and the benefits of Buddhism in dealing with problems in a whole different perspective, with such wisdom and with such vision we can foresee a future of Buddhism moving ahead in future on the right path, with its holder highly intellectual and humbled. This is what I have to say… and I strongly believe that slowly and steadily younger generations of Himalayan community will realize its importance and will do the right things.