Give Peace A Chance: Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche on saving humanity and the construction of The Universal Peace Sanctuary in Nepal

    To anyone who is paying any attention, the world feels increasingly insecure – seemingly teetering upon a precipice of ecocide, the unchecked rise of artificial intelligence, economic collapse and even potential nuclear annihilation. And all too often it feels in this disquieting moment in our collective history as though there is very little talk of peace and reconciliation in the mass media – rather we seem to focus purely upon escalation and division. Given this backdrop, the staggeringly ambitious construction of a Universal Peace Sanctuary in Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of Buddha, has all the hallmarks of a truly visionary and utterly essential project. It is the brainchild of his Eminence Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche, the abbot of Shyalpa Monastery and Nunnery in Kathmandu, who was trained from infancy by the eminent Buddhist masters of his time. His singular mission to build a sanctuary devoted to the promotion of peaceful co-existence across the globe is intended as an antidote to environmental degradation, economic disparity and political conflict, where people from all walks of life can come together focus their attention upon the survival of the human race. The futuristic design, based upon the white lotus, will be an entirely neutral space, containing no religious iconography save a Jade statue of Queen Mayadevi, mother of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who it was foretold would lose her life soon after bearing her child, but whom brought Buddha into the world regardless. As such, it will 'honour all those mothers who exemplify selfless love' – postulating that unconditional love is the true source for peace in the world. His Eminence has already founded various non-profit organisations, such as Buddhafield, the Center for Enlightenment, in the United States, and the Wencheng Gongzhu International Foundation in Hong Kong. The charitable construction of The Universal Peace Sanctuary nearly came to a halt during the pandemic, but is now gaining fresh momentum due to his undying efforts to see it materialise. Culture Collective were honoured to take some time out with the His Eminence at the home of supporter and fintech entrepreneur Bundeep Singh Rangar, on the eve of a fundraising gala in Beverly Hills, to discuss global peace, the art of mastering nowness and the urgency of de-escalating a potential Third World War.

    Do you think global peace is truly achievable, given that conflict, violence and war seems part and parcel of our collective history and the human condition?
    I feel that peace is absolutely achievable on a global scale. Why do I say that? Does that mean there is no greed, there's no anger? No. Because unobstructed that energy continues forever. But that doesn't mean that you cannot achieve global peace, and achieve peace within, because being able to truly rise to the occasion is about being able to integrate into this flow of energy without this energy enslaving you, and being able to learn how to handle and shape energy. Ignorance causes war outside in the world, and ignorance causes war within each and everyone's thoughts and emotions – to be able to be free from that is to be able to free from conditioning, free from the ego. We all have the possibility to be awakened from the sleep of ignorance, and we have the possibility to realise clarity.

    Where do you think the desire to commit acts of violence and cruelty comes from in the human animal and how can it be negated?
    I think it comes from territorial insecurity, ego and a sense of poverty mentality, where you might act on something which is not desirable because there is a burst of energy coming from that insecurity within you, and that translates into such a horrible thing, which only brings you much, much deeper in the mud; deeper in the swamp. There’s no reason to create any of these things if you are awakened, if you're enlightened – if you're in a peaceful mind-set, then there is, of course, no reason to do harm. In a way, we have to have even more compassion towards those people who do harm. We have to the radiate light of compassion towards them, so that their life is brightened, instead of being dragged down by their ignorance. It is very important for us to not to have negative thoughts towards these people – you have to have positive thoughts towards them to influence them. And this is the core question and purpose of The Universal Peace Sanctuary – how can we awaken people, how can we save human life?

    How does the Universal Peace Sanctuary intend to awaken people and promote global peace?
    This Universal Peace Sanctuary is a global peace destination, where we have a 1,500-seater conference hall, a peace museum and peace library, and also three smaller peace halls, where world leaders can sit down and have a more organic form of dialogue, outside of the political structure. Because, right now, how many people have died in Ukraine? If you look at Putin or Zelensky, I'm sure they both have a hard time sleeping – I'm sure they have sleepless nights pretty much most of the time because so many people are dying, and that is also a form of suffering; that is not valuable either for them. And forget about what it means for their karmic return in the next life, the question for us all is what about tonight? How easily can we sleep when we collectively do so much harm? The intention of The Universal Peace Sanctuary is to liberate humanity from this ignorance, and help people find true ways to celebrate their life. What I envision for the sanctuary is people discovering themselves, and people reawakening as they're sitting in this place, even for five minutes – millions of people visiting every day, looking within and finding themselves.

    In terms of looking within, how can one silence the ever-present voice of negative reinforcement?
    I don't know whether you can silence that per se, but what you can do is make it is ineffective, because if you are armoured with your wisdom and clarity then nothing can penetrate you. There is all this chaos happening in the world, but that's fine, because you are there to solve the chaos – in a chaotic world, you are not there to create any more chaos, you are there to bring more calm, more wisdom, more compassion; you are so mature and sophisticated that you are able to truly look at everyone in a grandfatherly way, with love and compassion. What we need to do is to bring this real intelligence into people's minds, whether they are in Beverly Hills, or whether they're in some kind of ghetto – because even a beggar, who can donate one rupee for peace, is making a difference. It is essential for people to understand that material doesn't make you richer – even in Beverly Hills, I'm sure many of the high-net-worth people attending our fundraising gala there will be experiencing mental poverty, and to be able to donate a certain amount of money helps to them free themselves from that attachment to material – so that they too are able to experience real richness of being, truly relishing their own breath in each moment.

    Is it possible to meditate too much? Could one not argue that if you were seeking the negation of thought for say, six hours a day, you might be wasting your life?
    Yes, because the way you describe meditating, as a negation of thought or letting it go, is the wrong approach. If you waste your life, it is exactly the same whether you waste in the temple or in Wall Street. There's no difference. In my tradition, to be able to meditate is to get used to the awareness of nowness, and I say nowness, because even in a sense of ‘presence’ there is always the sense of past, present and future, but nowness is a state that is beyond time, and that means that if you are in the nowness, you will never condition anything in the present. All the time, in this life, you are usually conditioning within any given moment, because the present is relative to the past and the future. But nowness is the unconditional state of awareness. In nowness, you don't waste any time in your life, because for you, your practice is 24/7 and it is there in every single breath that you take. By integrating that awareness into your life, you find that the true preciousness of life can be truly experienced – and awareness of this is also what I am promoting by promoting peace.

    There is an underlying fear of nuclear conflict that is very present at the moment; do you feel that global nuclear war is a very real possibility?
    Yes. It is very close. People cannot even imagine how close right now. I don't think people are even aware. It seems people are thinking of WWI and WWII, and how those wars were fought with some tanks and airplanes, some guns and knives – so, people are thinking, okay, this WWIII, if it happens, might be a little bit worse than the first and second, but no, it would be a million times worse. We're in an urgent situation – potential wipe out. This is why it is so urgent to work for peace, and invite everyone to join, and help them wake up. You know, trillions of dollars is spent on war each year. It's not spent on peace. And I think this whole war industry is very, very dangerous. Right now, I'm praying all the time in my own way to minimise that kind of negative influence, but we all have to pray together. We all have to meditate together. We all have to act together.

    The writer William Burroughs postulated that the atom bomb is in fact a soul killer, and that a thermo-nuclear blast can potentially annihilate any form of ascendance or reincarnation after death – what do you think of that notion?
    This is true. It could be complete wipe out, and I think this is what we need people to be aware of. When we talk about peace, we have opportunity to make sure people are aware of this, but if we talk about war, we don't have the opportunity to be aware of this kind of thing at all. It's very important right now to make sure people do not become involved in this nuclear war because of ego, so we need to make sure nobody is in involved in ego. We have to bring this spiritual understanding to life in absolutely everyone – the sacredness of life must be fully realised, so that there is no need for our ego to be involved in any of our activities. I think it is as simple as that, and we can do that. Because if I'm ever able to make one billion people pause for just one minute and meditate with me, we can save the Mother Earth – you don't need any rocket scientist to figure that out, but what we do need is to have this resource available for everyone. The reason I am giving you this interview is because you are doing a great job in spreading this message to all your audiences. I may have never met them personally in this lifetime, but as we are exchanging in this moment, we are creating karma that is beneficial for everyone who might read it.

    You can find out more about The Universal Peace Sanctuary and donate here

    Interview by John-Paul Pryor