Thupten Jinpa: The man who built bridges between Buddhist tradition and the contemporary world.

- through Sophie Solere

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A great figure in international Buddhism, interpreter of the Dalai Lama in the English-speaking world for more than thirty years, Thupten Jinpa strives to build bridges between his Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the contemporary world. Portrait.

Very young, his destiny was linked to that of the Dalai Lama. His parents were among the eight thousand Tibetans who fled Tibet in 1959, when their spiritual leader left the country to find refuge in India. Thupten Jinpa first met him at the age of six when His Holiness visited the Stirling Castle Home for Tibetan Children in Shimla, northern India in the early 1960s. , where the young Tibetan refugee then lives. “I was one of the students chosen to walk alongside him as he visited the school,” says Jinpa, as he likes to be called, in his book. Let's not be afraid anymore. Confiding then to the Dalai Lama on his wish to become a monk, the latter replied: “Study well and you can become a monk whenever you want”. This is how Thupten Jinpa joined at the age of eleven, on the first day of the Tibetan New Year, the monastery of Dzonghar Choede. It was there, for almost ten years, in this community settled in the peaceful green hills of Dharamsala, that he lived, worked, meditated and chanted. Ten years later, he joined Ganden, a large monastic university in southern India. In 1985, the Dalai Lama, convinced by his mastery of English and his talents as a debater in Ganden, offered him to become his interpreter for the English language. “I was in tears: even in my dreams, I had never imagined that one day I would have the privilege of serving the Dalai Lama so closely. At the age of 27, he began to accompany His Holiness on his international travels. He becomes his interpreter with English-speaking audiences, but also at important scientific conferences such as the Mind & Life Dialogues. He also assists her in her writing projects translating and editing more than ten of her books, including Ancient wisdom, modern world. Ethics for the new millennium et The Dalai Lama talks about Jesus: A Buddhist perspective on the teachings of Jesus.

What essential lessons did he learn from His Holiness? “I have never met a man who thinks so much about the world and its future. Every day, he thinks of ways to help sentient beings. I also learned from him the importance of humility. He is a humble man,” insists Thupten Jinpa.

Interface between two cultures

After his studies in Ganden, he continued his studies at the University of Cambridge (Great Britain), where he obtained a doctorate. He then founded the Institute of Tibetan Classics. His goal ? Translate key texts of Tibetan Buddhism into English. "We have created a collection that compiles classical Tibetan texts, so that they are as easy to read as possible," he explains.

“The Dalai Lama? I have never met a man who thinks so much about the world and its future. Every day, he thinks of ways to help sentient beings. I also learned from him the importance of humility. He is a humble man. »

Aware that his destiny is to serve as an interface between two cultures, as a relay between his Tibetan Buddhist tradition and the contemporary world, he left to teach religious studies at McGill University in Montreal (Canada). At the age of thirty-eight, he decided to leave monastic life. “I wanted to start a family. What I never really knew in my life. I have lived in a religious boarding school since I was four and a half years old. Then my mother died when I was nine. His profession leading him to work more and more at the international level, to become a sort of bridge between East and West, he convinced himself that he would henceforth be more useful by working in the world, rather than in a monastery. Today, he lives in Montreal with his wife and two teenage daughters. In addition to his work supervising doctoral students at McGill University, he directs the Institute of Tibetan Classics and chairs the California-based Compassion Institute. He is also the chairman of the board of the Mind & Life Institute, located in Virginia, which he sees as a catalyst. “We try to connect, to establish bridges between clinical research and applications in society, particularly in the field of health and education. The latest Mind & Life Conversations, held in Dharamsala this fall, focused on the theme: compassion, interconnectedness and transformation.

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Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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