Don't worry, be happy

All this advice comes from hard-earned experience - for Gharwang Rinpochea himself had to learn to accept his lot in life and love who he is.

He was born into an aristocratic family in Gangtok, Sikkim. His mother was Princess Sonam Peden Namgyal, but he was recognised as the next reincarnation (the 12th) of the Zurmang Gharwang lineage while in his mother's womb.

The Rinpochea thinks his mother was not happy when she learnt that she had to give up her son to the monkhood.

"When I was seven days old, my parents reluctantly surrendered me to the monkhood," says Rinpoche, who recollects that he was sent to live with his paternal uncle.

He still had a regular childhood and could play with his uncle's five sons. But he also had a "personal trainer monk". When he was 11, Rinpoche entered the monastery; at 15, he took his vow of celibacy as a novice monk.

He went on to study under many great Buddhist scholars and travelled extensively in Asia, America and Europe, expounding on Buddhist teachings. He was awarded the keys of the city by the governor of Los Angeles in recognition of his works in promoting harmony and humanity.

In 1992, Gharwang Rinpochea founded the Zurmang Kagyud Buddhist Foundation, a non-profit international charitable organisation that has been involved in setting up homes for the aged and building roads, schools and clinics in deprived areas. The foundation has also established various Buddhist centres such as institutes for higher learning, retreat centres, monasteries and nunneries. Over the years, Rinpochea has set up centres in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur and (in Indonesia) in Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya and Pekan Baru.

Rinpochea also writes in his free time. He has authored 10 books, including Seven Points Mind Training (on meditation), Essence Of The Buddha, Opening The Door To Dharma and Teaching On Bardo (teachings on living and dying).

Currently, while lecturing in America, he is taking an intensive English Language programme at Harvard University in preparation of eventually gaining a degree either in comparative religion or environment studies - yes, the monk is green! He plants "a few thousand trees every year" and educates the monks at his monastery on not throwing garbage everywhere, using less plastic, and saving trees.

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