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Living Fully
Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche : Living Fully Introduction

Living Fully: Finding Joy in Every Breath

Introduction from Living Fully by Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche

The most amazing and sublime beings excel in living fully and never seem to dwell in the past. I witnessed this in my own great teacher, who after repeated requests wrote just three beautiful lines to summarize his life. On the other hand, some extraordinary masters wrote their life stories at length, and they are equally inspiring to read. The events of my own life are not so noteworthy, and I feel the message is far more important than the messenger. However, I was asked to give a brief recounting, so that I might create an auspicious and personal connection with interested readers.

I was born in the foothills of the majestic Himalaya Mountains. After my first birthday, my family moved to Orissa, in eastern India. While living in Tibet, my parents were well-to-do landowners, but after going into exile, they had to toil in the sun for long hours, felling trees and clearing land for their corn harvests. During my early childhood, my grandparents were primarily responsible for my care, and they nurtured me with affectionate love and concern. In a sense, they were my first teachers, as I learned from them how to protect and care for others.

Apparently, at an early age there were indications of the course my life was to take. My grandmother told me how, at age two, I would place my hands together in reverence upon entering the local temple. A senior reincarnate Buddhist lama from the area told my grandmother that I was destined to become a spiritual guide.

When I was four years old, I joined my father at the crack of dawn while he performed his daily rituals and prayers. I did not often play with toys like other children, but was more interested in spiritual objects like bells and drums. These sacred instruments forged my early connection to the teachings of the Buddha and initiated my lifelong spiritual journey.

At the age of six, I began to attend a public school for a secular education, and after returning home in the afternoon, I studied and memorized Buddhist scriptures until dinnertime. I would often hear my friends laughing outdoors while playing games of hide-and-seek and soccer. I longed to join them in the afternoon sun. However, my wise grandmother gently encouraged me to concentrate on my religious studies, believing in my destiny to be-come a spiritual leader.

On my fifteenth birthday, my grandfather asked me to choose a young girl from our village as my wife. However, at this young age I was more interested in continuing my studies, and I was accepted to the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India. Each morning, my classmates and I learned ancient philosophy, rituals, and prayers. In the afternoon, we sat in the fragrant gardens surrounding the university and engaged in animated philosophical debate and discussion. With each passing year, my understanding of and faith in the spiritual way of life grew stronger.

During the sixth year of my studies, a letter arrived informing me that my grandfather had died. Deeply saddened, I returned home during the summer holidays, only to learn that my stepfather had also passed away and that both my parents were extremely ill. My mother was in a coma. I joined the monks and lamas in performing rituals for the dead and prayers for the sick. I concentrated on helping my parents regain their health, but their chances for recovery did not look promising.

In the Buddhist tradition, it is believed that rescuing animals that are destined for slaughter not only frees them from suffering but also creates favorable conditions for our long life. More importantly, expressing compassion in this way transforms negative obstacles for those who are near death. When you truly feel compassion in your heart, everything seems to go well. Spending most of the money that remained after paying medical bills, I ransomed the lives of thousands of fish and released them back into the River Ganges on the twelfth day of my mother's coma. Miraculously, my mother awoke and rested peacefully for the first time in weeks. Subsequently, my parents steadily regained their health.

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Updated 1/20/14