Tsoknyi Gyatso, 38. Tibetan monk. Lives in McLeodGanj.
How is your ordinary day like?
Usually I get up around 5 am. Always try to get up little early because I practise Tibetan yoga. I do Surya Namaskars & kapalabhati. Then have breakfast — cheese with Tsampa & milk tea. Most Tibetan people eat Tsampa with sugar cheese and butter, but I don’t like sugar much. Then I listen to news about Tibetan issues. I also try to watch and listen to BBC and CNN to improve my English. Then I do my homework around 9/9.30. Then I chant from the Dharma book and meditate. In daytime I have two French classes and since last week I started going to LHA for conversation class. When I have free time I go to the temple and meditate. During my dinner I chat with my friends in Tibet on WeChat. It was created by the Chinese. Last month Chinese arrested a Tibetan woman because she shared many pictures of His Holiness with her friends and talked about what’s happening in Tibet. So we are just talking about normal stuff: what we are eating, what did you do today, how is the weather. Our conversations on WeChat are meaningless.
Do you believe in reincarnation?
Yes. When I was 25 years old there were many Tibetan children around who remembered everything about their previous lives. They could recognize their previous parents, friends, monasteries, everything. Mind and body are different. Body is like the cloth of mind. When we stop breathing mind goes out to a place between death and birth till it is born again.
How do you define mind?
Mind is the root — the essence of you. Mind is very flexible. If we try we can mould it. Mind is you. Many people believe mind is in heart. Science says it’s here [points to his head]. We are always busy thinking about many things. This makes us sad. Busy meaningless life. We have no contentment. We have to stop thinking and try to keep it silent.
How do you make the mind silent?
[Laughs]. Best way to make mind stable is through meditation. By thinking about emptiness and why I am busy, why I am in this world.
Actually I am not good at doing meditation. I am under three poisons. I am full of ignorance, attachment, and hatred.
What are you attached to?
Beautiful things. I am wearing this[robe] but I am still trying to control my attachment to desires. So I have this attachment. If I didn’t, I could stay in the mountains and live there forever. If I am not under the three poisons I will be liberated from samsara. Like Milarepa.
Photographed and interviewed in November 2013 in Mcleodganj.
*// The color “red” had become the traditional monk robe color in Tibet mainly because it was the most common and cheapest dye at one point of time. Also, red is considered a ”poor” color in Tibet so the idea of wearing red symbolizes deflecting attention from oneself and focusing on compassion & kindness towards other beings – one of the main principles of Buddhism. Wearing such robes also symbolizes the vow taken to lead simple lives. A monk’s robe is a symbol of his non-status that he no longer partakes in a material world. *//