There are very few people in the world who just by their presence, have a tranquilizing effect on the entire atmosphere around them. An aura of peace, calm and (ultimate) positivity. A mantra of contentment echoing all around. My 20 minute meeting with His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa was when I experienced this overwhelming presence at its best.
The Gyalwang Drukpa is the honorific title for the spiritual head of the Drukpa lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism. The existing lineage holder is the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa, Jigme Pema Wangchen. The 1000 year old Drukpa order has been based in the Himalayas with over a 1000 monastic centers. His Holiness has conducted a lot of humanitarian work in the region under the secular NGO founded by him – ‘LIVE TO LOVE’. He is also the founder of the award winning Drukpa White Lotus School, the one in Amir Khan’s film ‘3 Idiots’. He lays special emphasis on environmental preservation and gender equality.
I had recently read a book by him ‘Everyday Enlightenment’ and the one thing that stuck with me was his reference to the ‘Turtle Club’. His Holiness leads a lot of pilgrimages or Padyatras to holy sites. He jokingly says that at these yatras, he would like to be chairman of the club. The ‘Turtle club’ is the group of people who cannot walk as fast as the others. That gives them a chance to slow down and observe and appreciate the small and beautiful things around them. To make some connections along the way. Connections with their own body and mind and of course the world around. It’s easier he says to walk at a relaxed pace and this often leads to a better stamina in the longer run. An important analogy I felt with our competitive and rushed everyday lives. I was looking forward to meeting him.
We had the honour of an audience with His Holiness at the celebrations of a 1000 years of Naropa in Hemis (Ladakh). Amidst thousands of locals and a whole lot of chaos, we got to the room he sat in. The room was full of clothes, food and a variety of other materials for the celebrations. We made our way through all that to a corner where he sat. I looked up at him, expecting him to look older. “Sorry for this mess”, he said. “It’s all a mess really. So many people, celebrations at this scale. A good kind of mess”. He was beaming.
We spoke to him on a variety of subjects. Honestly an uncle we got to go with did. Despite my preparation, I was rendered fairly speechless in his presence and just sat there and listened. His response to each of these subjects was absolutely heart-warming. A peaceful, content expression and an infectious smile on his face throughout. Being in the presence of a religious leader with thoughts and an aura like his made me feel some hope for the world.
“I hate religion”, he said. “The way it has been misinterpreted and is leading to so many problems in the world. Religion is a way of life. It’s how you treat your neighbor, your house-help. Its not about rituals and practices. People spend hours in a place of worship but are ruthless and unkind to everyone around them. No good can come from that.”
On Marriage and Relationships
His holiness believed that marriage was one of the most wonderful institutions. However considered it important to put the focus in the right places. He quotes David Brandon, “If I could throw away the urge to trace my patterns in your heart, I could really see you”. He said relationships needed space. You give yourself the freedom you give others. He also emphasized on the importance of gratitude and respect within relationships. “Teach each other respect”, he said. “It is the foundation of all compassion, kindness and love”.
His Holiness believed that peace was the natural state of mind. But we don’t experience it as long as we let our egos and attachments control us. In fact we will not even know it exists. “Anger may seem like a natural reaction in a lot of situations”, he said. “It may seem a 100% justified. But it only harms us in the end. Or the people we are close to. One must learn to take control of their anger. Meditation can go a long way to help with this. Whatever form of meditation one enjoys or believes in”.
“Anything can happen in the next minute; that is the beauty of life”. His Holiness said that to be happy we really need to let go of the rigid view of ourselves and the world around us which is transient in any case. We need to let go of our heavy egos. He also said that we almost always look for happiness in all the wrong places. In the things that we don’t have. And in that process we tend to overlook all the wonderful reasons to be happy that are right around us.
At the end of the conversation, I got up and walked towards him to take his blessings. As he put that scarf around my neck, a quiet revelation took place somewhere inside me. He had touched a chord. His response to most of our questions, you would have observed, was simple and straight-forward. No flowery words were used. No complex theories. It could all seem quite obvious. But it was about following those simple practices. About focusing energies on the positives and taking time to appreciate the little things in life. The things we all take for granted. To slow down your pace and make some real connections along the way… Much like “The Turtle Club” :)