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Lobsang Phuntsok: Re-inviting the Uninvited Guests of the Universe

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Nuggets From Lobsang Phuntsok's Call

On Saturday, October 20th, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Lobsang Phuntsok.

Everyone is an invited guest of the universe, Lobsang Phunstock tells the children of his community. But the message he received as a child was that he was an uninvited guest of the universe -- unwanted, abandoned at birth by his mother -- until his grandparents found him and sent him to monastery to free him from disturbing emotions. He eventually became one of 10 Buddhist monks selected by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to travel to the West to teach Buddhism. Now, he runs Jhamtse Gatsal Children’s Community for children in his ancestral region of India. Not calling the place an orphanage or a charity, even for fundraising, Lobsang does not want to market the children’s adversity, or to label them, as he is still challenged by the labels he received as a child. And so he considers these children “jewels in the dirt,” the ones nobody wanted, like him, but who have equal potential to become amazing beings.

We'll post the transcript of the call soon, but till then, Here are some notable moments from our incredible call. Usually we would call them "golden nuggets" but I'm sure that any of you that were able to listen to the call would agree that it was more like golden mountains of love, insight, and joy...

  • On being sent to a Buddhist Monastery at the mere age of 7:
    “Usually when a young boy or girl is sent to a monastery, it is primarily for one of two reasons: 1) They are usually great human beings like his Holiness the Dalai Lama (an enlightened being) or 2) There is another category for people like me, who have a lot of challenges in life, a lot of problems in life. I was definitely in the latter category. I remember very clearly when my grandparents were aging that one of the stressful situations for them was when I was a young boy. They did everything they could to make me a better human being. They felt like they didn’t know how else to help and as a last/final option it was to send me to the monastery.
  • In a monastery, there are so many amazing things that the great teachers/masters teach you. My focus was not so much “adding things to my life” but rather shedding things from my life. I was doing not right things, harmful things, I was shedding my disturbing emotions around hate and anger and all these sorts of disturbing emotions. So This is one of the most important things that I learned in the monastery. I am still unlearning and trying to shed more and more in my life, rather than adding new skills or new wisdom in my life, I try to do every day in my life, if I can unlearn and shed more and more.
  • On learning to overcome the incredible life and emotional challenges:
    Why is my situation like this? Why did this happen to me? Why didn’t I have a parent? A dad? This is part of the situation. This is part of why I was so negative and angry. This is one of the many reasons I was in that situation. The environment in a monastery is like reflecting on those things (negative feelings), and learning not to blame anyone, to take a deep look inside in my own life, not running away from that but facing that, learning my weakness. Not having something in my life, not having is a strength, not a weakness.
  • Sometimes we human beings tend to blame, oh I don’t have this or I don’t have that I don’t have this, I’m like this, because of my past I am like this, because of my parents, I am like this, so we often kind, these things become an excuse, we justify wrongdoing because of this past. Being in a monastery the whole teaching was turning that inward and what you don’t have is strength rather than a weakness, really as I mentioned, we try to shed those stories, try to remove from those levels of those stories we tell to ourselves, it was one of the most amazing experiences for me, even today I really feel strongly that one of the best decisions in my life was made by my grandparents, if it was by me, I wouldn’t have made that decision, and so one of the great decisions made by grandparents was one of the best decisions that happened to me.
  • On deciding to disrobe as a monk and create Jhamtse Gatsal:
    My grandparents goal for me is to become a human. When I got into the monastery my teachers helped me find a purpose in my life. Becoming a human being, a better human being and finding a purpose were my two main goals that my teachers wanted me to accomplish initially. In creating Jhamtse Gatsal, I was looking to create my own family, my own purpose in my life. A very selfish reason was involved in creating Jhamtse Gatsal. I didn't have a dad and I wanted to be that for others. But, how could I become a father figure to these children? In order to do that, I needed to remove these conscious barriers and so the choice clear was to “disrobe.”
  • On choosing the name Jhamtse Gatsal and a gardeners approach to parenting:
    There was a lot of debate about the name. I had advisors who said it was difficult to pronounce and would be hard to use for marketing and fundraising purpose. But the deep meaning of the name was aligned with the philosophy of what we were trying to foster. We often approach parenting/raising children like manufacturing and process…by age 3 we will do this, by age of 5 we will do this, but for me it was really like a garden, we need to nurture them, not manufacture them, we have a full family right now, each family is named after a medicinal flower in the Himalayan. We see ourselves as gardeners and the children as medicinal flowers…they heal themselves and the rest of the world one day. As a gardener, as an organic gardener, as a Gardner of love and compassion is not to say you should be a pink or purple or red flower (because it would be more marketable) but to just tend to the flower knowing each flower will have a unique contribution. The name is truly the garden of love and compassion. I want people to think and act accordingly.
  • 3 Pillars of Jhamtse Gatsal in raising children to be human beings
    The 3 educational pillars we try to instill in all the children are:
    • 1) A healthy and skilled body;
    • 2) An awaking mind; and
    • 3) A kind heart.
  • These three pillars of the Jhamtse Gatsal community allow us to really understand the wholeness of each flower (child). Today, the education and expectations from parents is very narrow-minded. We focus on the left brain often too much feeling that nothing else is important. Not only kids who are good at math and science are useful. That’s why it is important to have a skilled and healthy body.
  • Educating body parts begins with taking care of your body. We grow organic vegetables, exercise, yoga, meditation, …all of these things are such a critical part of educating the body. There are skill based educating from construction to gardening to other activities so they have real skills to support a healthy and skilled body. Then awaken the mind and finally awaken the kind heart. We make sure kids are doing critical thinking, analytical thinking. Kind heart is meditation practice, putting their understanding of love and compassion into practice. Focusing on these three pillars allow us to awaken the whole human being.
  • On trauma and helping build relationships with others and oneself
    This is a very important question First, I must confess that I am not an expert. I'm still struggling to learn about this. One thing that we are doing consistently in J-G is spending time with children, building a relationship - that means being with them with a whole heart...In the modern world, the reason a therapist is welcome and needed to overcome trauma is because we pay them to listen to us. Feels great if someone listens with caring and compassion. If someones is having a hard time, we can even close the school and listen to them. Human being more important than human doing. From a business perspective, we are a dysfunctional community! Love is the healer. People think this is strange. But it works! When someone is having some trouble, it's not just enough to send a flower, or a WhatsApp message or a card. It's powerful to use touch to comfort, more powerful when we do it (gift our presence) with our mind, but most powerful when we do it with our heart as well. So do all of this -- not just with body, that is, put your hands around and hug the person. But put your mind and heart as well. This 100% increases the impact. In 13 years of history, spending time with kids with trauma, I found this to be most powerful.
  • On Community: If you were to ask, what is a community? Community is a relationship. What kind of relationship? A deep caring relationship. That is what these housemothers are working to do. To teach them this. Lots of these children are coming from abusive situations, and so they work to rebuild this relationship to others. This has been one of the keys to our success.

Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!

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