Thinley Ningpo became a monk at a Buddhist monastery in northern Tibet. He has made pilgrimages to the sacred places of western Tibet, studied under the eminent scholars of his faith and earned the title of Drupon ("retreat teacher") and the honorific Rinpoche ("precious one") for the years he has spent teaching and seeking enlightenment.
So when he was asked Tuesday evening if he has ever given in to his "afflictive emotions" — such as anger and fear — he surprised the crowd at Pasco-Hernando Community College by responding in English:
"Oh, all the time!"
Ningpo explained that he spent six years in a monastery, which included working with young children. They could be very difficult, he said, and he would have to continuously practice his meditation.
The Buddhist monk spoke largely through an interpreter for two hours at the New Port Richey campus about the goal of finding inner peace, and the obstacles along the way.
The greatest barrier to enlightenment, he said, is caring only about one's own happiness. We need to "lessen our clinging to ourselves," he said.
"If you really want to be happy," he said, "help others."
He spoke at length about meditating on the love from one's own mother and extending that love to families, friends, community and the world. He also spoke about looking at others who may not have had that loving experience and to see the result, generating compassion for them.
If someone becomes angry, he said, try to understand that the anger is not that person, but rather an emotion of that person.
"Grow inwardly," he said, so as not to be overpowered by our emotions, and gain "a deeper understanding of the situation at hand."
While it is easy to get angry, it takes time and patience to cultivate love and compassion, he said.
Even just meditating for five minutes every morning will help, he said. "Train and tame our minds," he said.
At the end of his discussion, Ningpo welcomed questions from the audience, which included professors of religion, psychology and sociology, as well as students and members of the community.
Several women spoke about alleviating conflicts at home and about raising children by incorporating the Buddhist philosophy. One man asked about teaching children to meditate.
"It establishes a seed for later on," the monk said.
Tesha Whitman, 27, lives in Lutz and is a student at PHCC in New Port Richey. She asked about her 3-month-old son and how she can eventually keep him from acting out of fear.
Ningpo said matter-of-factly, in accented English, that parents with good dispositions will have children with good dispositions.
Drupon Thinley Ningpo Rinpoche is one of two resident lamas at the Tibetan Meditation Center in Frederick, Md. He travels the country visiting Buddhist centers like the Port Richey-based Ratnashri Sangha of Tampa Bay, which sponsored his visit.
The monk's honorary titles mean "precious teacher," according to PHCC professor of psychology Mike Sadusky, who hosted the event.
"I've been trying to get my students to use that title for two or three years now," Sadusky joked during his warm and light-hearted introduction to Ningpo's presentation.
While he admitted to not be a practitioner of Buddhism and never being able to meditate for more than 30 seconds, Sadusky said told Ningpo, "I feel very blessed to have you here."