Who is His Eminence Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche?
It is not easy to say. In one sense, as human beings, we are constantly undergoing ceaseless transformation and change. So perhaps it is best not to dwell too much on who we are in a Bac conditional sense or where we have been habitually. I remember many of my own teachers who never had much desire to say about themselves. I feel that the message is much more important than the messenger.
Your Eminence, you are on a quest to build a Universal Peace Sanctuary in Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. Could you tell us more about this project?
In 2013, the Nepalese government entrusted my charitable organizations in the United States and Asia to develop a “temple of peace” in Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha and UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE. As Queen Maya Devi accepted her role as a mother seriously and with unconditional love, she sacrifices her life by giving birth to Prince Siddhartha, who was born in Lumbini. Since he later attain enlightenment under the Boddhi tree and now Buddha is considered the apostle of peace, there is no place on earth that is better suited to serve as a radiant beacon, inspiring and guiding individuals, communities, and nations towards peaceful co-existence and reconciliation. This is the Buddha’s living message of how to reveal the peace that dwells within the human heart to radiate into the world. So one could say that the message of peace was “born” in Lumbini, now Lumbini is the fountain of peace.
Why is it important to build this Sanctuary? How is it going to benefit humanity as a whole?
Today, it appears that conflict is increasing everywhere around the world. There is more unease and anxiety than ever before. Therefore, we really need to focus on what is possible in terms of finding inner peace, the wisdom and compassion that is innate within each of us. This begins with each individual, and then we can begin to work together to foster peaceful interaction within communities and among nations. I like to say, “Let’s make peace more fashionable than war.” First, we need to have less war within ourselves—less inner conflict and struggle—and then we will experience more harmony with others. In this sense, I have a vision to create a peaceful destination for every peace lover around the world. Like the world economic forum, we are creating the world peace forum in Lumbini. This will generate prosperity locally and bring peace around the world.
The Peace Sanctuary design is full of symbolism. Who is the designer, and what does it mean?
The design was the result of collaboration between myself and the renowned German architect, Prof. Stephan Braunfels. First, I had a vision of how the sanctuary would appear and what it would represent. This vision took form when Prof. Braunfels rendered the design. The principal symbol in the sanctuary design is the lotus flower. The lotus grows in the mud but rises in the warmth and sunlight, to blossom as a most beautiful flower. The lotus flower represents the purity and perfection of spiritual awakening and enlightenment.
What is your definition of peace?
Peace is a state of natural ease, the perfect state of equanimity. Finding ease is a process of realizing peace within. If one only depends on outer circumstances, it is difficult to find peace because everything outside of oneself is conditional and always subject to change. One knows ease when one can have peace of mind in all circumstances—good and bad, happy Bac and sad. Here you find liberation from the concept of duality.
How can we start living a life of peace?
Perhaps it is as simple as pausing for a while and feeling your breath. Breath is the most natural thing. We don’t have to think, we don’t have to plan, and we don’t have to act to breathe. It just naturally happens. To have this ability to rest in it naturally, to let go of habitual control and allow things to take their course, is a very good start.
In your book Living Fully, finding joy in every breath, you talk about the compassionate heart, could you please let us know a bit more about this concept?
To give birth to a compassionate heart, one needs wisdom. When we look within, we begin to see how we create suffering for ourselves by conditioning everything. We tend to be selfish and habitually care more for ourselves than we do for others. We struggle with discursive thoughts and disturbing negative emotions. Wisdom sees how no one is immune to this kind of suffering. Therefore our priority is to actualize the awareness of nowness. With this understanding, why would anyone want to cause suffering for others? Why would you want to harm anyone? The Universal Peace Sanctuary will honor the Sakyamuni Buddha, the apostle of peace, his mother, Queen Mayadevi, symbol of unconditional love, and all mothers of the past, present, and future whose care for their children exemplify the love and compassion that is the source of all peace, within and without.
How can people contribute to the building of the sanctuary?
One could begin by having an aspiration for peace and offering a prayer for peace. In Buddhism, we say that one should begin with pure intention. So there is a sense of wishing that all beings actualize peace and be free from suffering. It is an unconditional aspiration for all humanity. I often say that we are not only building a sanctuary in Lumbini. We are also building sanctuaries of peace and understanding within our own hearts. In our fundraising, we say that everyone can offer as little as one dollar, one rupee, or one euro towards the sanctuary's completion. I feel that it would be easy to offer just one dollar unconditionally without any attachment. That would be a pure offering. The Buddha says that it is not the size of a gift but the spirit in which it is given. People often ask me what they can do to support the sanctuary. I tell them that this is not Rinpoche’s project; this is everyone’s project! If you see something worthy here, if you would like to contribute to a more peaceful and compassionate world, then you are welcome to join in this worthy endeavor. I would like to see everyone becomes a stakeholder of this historic peace project. May everyone feels the ownership of this project. Together, let’s make peace our priority.
For more information, please visitpeacesanctuary.org