An interview with H.H. Jangtrul Y Rinpoche

Kuensel Online, June 16, 2008

Timphu, Bhutan -- In 1988, Jangtrul Y Rinpoche was recognized as the trulku (reincarnate) of H.H. Jangtrul Pethrin Rinpoche by H.H. Drubwang Penor Rinpoche, under whose guidance and patronage he studied. Today, Jangtrul Y Rinpoche is known as a gifted poet, fluent narrator, and a nature lover. He has immense interest in poetry and other literary works.

He has kindly shared his thoughts on Buddhism with Kuensel.

What is Buddhism? Why should we practice Buddhism?

Buddhism is a way of life based on the view that everything is interconnected. To achieve contentment and fulfilment in life, one must know that one is also dependent on the contentment of others. To seek happiness at the cost of other humans or non-humans is a mistaken approach. Many people think that Buddhism is complicated with its elaborate rituals, tantric deities, 84,000 different teachings and crazy yogins. They think practising it is difficult.

Actually, it boils down to a few points. Don’t commit any negative deeds. Commit yourself to doing good deeds. If you can’t help others, at least don’t harm them. Learn to control yourself and your mind. To practice such simple principles in day to day life is to lay the foundations of contentment and fulfilment in this and the afterlife. It is not necessary to lock yourself up in a room or cave for days on ends, not at the beginning at least.

As Bhutan changes, how should we also change?

By change, I think you’re referring to Bhutan’s political transition. I know that change hasn’t been forced upon the Bhutanese. We chose the way and the path of change under the guidance of our leaders. Therefore, it’s a change for good. We’re democratising to better ourselves and our society.

It’s often true that, as the political institutions and structures change, the people’s mind refuse to change. We’re so set in our habits and beliefs, which are so deep-seated that, even when democracy requires us to re-think them, we won’t. Democracy would require us to be more tolerant to criticism, more compassionate to others as part of our fundamental rights, more disciplined as a fundamental duty, more accommodating to different points of view.

Rather than see political change as an opportunity to be more aggressive, reckless and self-asserting, we should learn to recognize that we’re members of a society that’s interconnected, and what we do has implications on others.

What is your understanding of the Bhutanese youth? Do you think they’re losing interest in our religion? If so, is modernization responsible for that?

Bhutanese youth are increasingly being weaned away from basic spiritual values. Of course, they aren’t to blame entirely. Modernisation has somehow made them believe that happiness and fulfilment are achieved through consumption of goods and ideas that aren’t necessarily local or spiritual. For example, how beautiful or handsome one should look is dependent upon a particular hairstyle one should keep, pants to wear or creams to use.

Basically, modernisation has induced the idea in our youth and adult alike that happiness is generated by consumption, not sharing, that we’re individuals, and not members of an interconnected society, that contentment is possible through adoration of heroes to whom revenge is justified.

You said that Bhutanese have the spirit of Buddhism but lack understanding. Why is it so?

Generally, most Bhutanese have grown up in a social and cultural environment that is informed by Buddhism. This environment is not new but has a long history. We’re used to certain do’s and don’ts that culture prescribes. And, since culture is largely based on Buddhism, the prescribed or prohibited values are internalized as a way of life. The spirit of Buddhism pervades our idea of living. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into our understanding of Buddhism. Understanding requires certain literacy or interaction between those who know and practice Buddhism as a spiritual pursuit. To understand Buddhism is to understand that it teaches nothing is permanent, that attachment to self is the greatest obstacle to happiness and that happiness can actually be found within.

One rising problem in Bhutan is our youth going into drug abuse and alcoholism. As a Rinpoche, what would you advise them?

My advice to them is not to go into drugs and alcohol. It isn’t worth it. It really isn’t cool.

How different is Buddhism as it is understood and practiced in the west?

Western societies aren’t Buddhist. Their culture has no Buddhist basis. When they approach Buddhism, they do so to it like science. They study, research, analyse and begin practice after accepting the meaning and value of certain teachings, meditation or rituals. It isn’t blind faith, not a voluntary surrender to the teachings just because they need an escape from some suffering or difficulties in life. They take to it once they know that it can help them deal with difficulties, not just seek a miraculous solution.

A Bhutanese, who is so used to the ceremonial and ritualistic accoutrements of practising Buddhism, would be surprised to see that western practitioners have usually none of these. By this, I don’t mean to say that these accoutrements are bad. Both have their values and merits.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: