April 26, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU’s Learning in Retirement Program Hosts Tibetan Buddhist

VALDOSTA — A regarded lama of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche will speak about positive motivation and conduct from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30, at Valdosta State University’s Regional Center for Continuing Education. The public is encouraged to attend.

Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche was born in Rabshi, East Tibet, in the province of Kham, in 1924. At the age of 12, he entered Thrangu Monastery and studied and practiced for six years. He was then sent on a pilgrimage to Tsurphu Monastery, where he met His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa for the first time. Two years later, at the age of 20, he traveled to Palpung Monastery and received his gelong (senior monk) vows.

“After his gelong ordination,” according to an online biography at www.kagyu.org, “Rinpoche returned to Thrangu Monastery for the rainy season retreat, a yearly tradition that began when Shakyamuni Buddha secluded himself during the rainy season in order to avoid accidentally killing the many insects and larvae that are most prolific during this wet period. After the three-month retreat, Rinpoche undertook a one-year solitary retreat. Soon after, he entered the traditional three-year, three-month, three-day retreat ….”

After three years of seclusion and intensive meditation, Rinpoche wanted to remain in the retreat for the rest of his life. However, he was advised instead to enter a one-year retreat in his uncle’s cabin. He then returned to Thrangu Monastery and took advantage of advanced teachings on Buddhist philosophy, psychology, metaphysics, and logic. Five years later, at the age of 30, his formal training was complete, and he embarked on a journey to share his knowledge with others.   

Rinpoche endured eight years of the Communist Chinese in Tibet, whose presence “brought political, economical, and religious changes to the Tibetan people, along with vast suffering and rampant destruction of their way of life,” according to the biography. In 1958, he and other monks left the monastery, able to save a just few sacred objects and volumes of dharma texts from destruction.

“With small provisions of food and clothing and a few horses, Rinpoche and his party began their long trek westward and were soon joined by a caravan of nomads with their flock of sheep,” the biography continued. “After 15 days of travel, … (they) stopped to rest, only to find themselves surrounded by Communist Chinese soldiers. Since night was falling, the Tibetan refugees were able to escape via a nearby swamp …. Everyone headed in separate directions across the swamp, which was very flat but punctuated with small gorges and areas where one could easily and quickly hide. On the second day, Rinpoche found a few of the monks and was relieved to know they were alive and unhurt. Gradually, the remaining monks were found …. The party survived … seven days without food since the mule carrying the provisions had disappeared. They ate snow to prevent dehydration and were forced to return to the place where the soldiers had surrounded them to look for food. The Communist Chinese were gone, and almost nothing was left but a few utensils and a little flour. Carrying the meager ration of flour, the lamas continued their journey.”

Rinpoche and the others reached the area of Tsurphu Monastery, not far from Lhasa in Central Tibet, some two-and-a-half months later. However, they did not stay due to impending danger, and by the end of March 1959, they had made their way to the border between Tibet and Bhutan.

“The Bhutanese would not grant immediate passage through their country, so the lamas were forced to spend one month at the blockaded border, when more than a thousand Tibetans died of starvation,” according to the biography. “Finally, His Holiness the Dalai Lama secured the permission of the Indian government for the refugees to enter India. They were given rations, and the Bhutanese opened two roads through Bhutan.”

Rinpoche and others “traveled through to Buxador, a town at the border of India and Bhutan. Former prison quarters served as their housing, and food was provided by the Indian government. Eventually, more than 1,500 monks gathered at Buxador with a common vision of maintaining and preserving the dharma, organizing a Tibetan community, and teaching. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche remained there for eight years. During his stay, Tibetan settlements were established in several areas of India, and many monks resettled in the new communities. Rationing was slowly discontinued.”

In 1967, Rinpoche was sent to Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim to teach the monks and to perform various ceremonies for Buddhist families in the local area. He was sent to various other monasteries to serve and teach in the years that followed. He returned to Rumtek Monastery in 1976 and was asked to serve as the abbot of a new Karma Kagyu monastery that had yet to be built in the United States.

Rinpoche has led individuals in solitary retreat since arriving in the U.S. He has held numerous workshops and amassed a prolific body of work published in English and Chinese. In 1988, he returned to his homeland of Tibet for the first time, visiting family and friends and sharing his wisdom with a new generation of monks.

VSU’s Regional Center for Continuing Education is located at 903 N. Patterson St. The event is presented free of charge. However, a $10 donation to help cover travel expenses is appreciated.

Rinpoche’s visit to Valdosta was made possible by VSU’s Learning in Retirement Program and the Valdosta Karma Kagyu Study Group.

Call the Regional Center for Continuing Education at (229) 245-6484 for details.

Visit http://www.kagyu.org/kagyulineage/teachers/tea15.php to read more about Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche.

Visit http://www.valdosta.edu/conted/documents/KKR_2013.pdf to learn more about Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s visit to Valdosta.