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Gehlek RimpocheGehlek Rimpoche: Tibet

Tibetans leave the country

Tibetan religious ceremonyprayer flags in the Himalayas


Watch the VideoTibetan leader Gehlek Rimpoche escaped Tibet with the Dalai Lama in the 1950's when the Chinese invaded. At the age of 19, he left Tibet, never to see his family or homeland again.

1. You were a young monk in the monastery when Tibet was invaded. Did you join another monastery upon coming to the United States or did you choose a different path for your life in America?

I remained in the larger Drepung monastery when it was re-established in India, however, soon afterwards I became a lay person. I am still affiliated with the monastery as an incarnate lama, but no longer as a monk.

2. Since Tibetan Buddhism was so intertwined with the Tibetan lifestyle and culture, influencing even the food you ate and the work you did, has your practice of the religion altered significantly since coming to the United States or have you been able to successfully implement the cultural aspects into daily American life?

I try to leave the cultural baggage out and try to adapt pure Buddhism as much as possible in American culture. Buddhism does that—it merged into Indian, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, and other cultures so I don't see any reason why it cannot integrate into American culture.

3. The Chinese have occupied Tibet for over 50 years, during which time they have waged a campaign to suppress anything native to the country. If they were to relinquish control now, do you think there would be any Tibetan culture left to salvage?

Culture is such that it is born with life and with human beings so as long as there are Tibetans and friends of Tibet, there will be Tibetan culture.

4. If given the opportunity to return to Tibet as a practicing Buddhist, would you? Or would you desire to remain in the United States?

I personally choose to remain in the United States. I am an American. I like America. I appreciate and enjoy America.

Source: Series: Destination America

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