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Ven. Tenzin Yonten describes how he became a monk

Ven. Tenzin YontenVen. Tenzin Yonten: "My interest in Buddhism began on my aimless travels through Northern India and Ladakh in 1998, and it was only then that a seed of curiosity decided to show itself.

That curiosity then began to pick-up whatever it could to read about Buddhism, and that continued to grow as I found people who could offer answers to the endless questions I had from my reading.

Within this process – which is still clear to me today – an admiration for the teachings took shape in that they were actually offering me a clear set of instructions on how to gain some control of all the garbage my mind produces, as well as presenting a very practical way to be of real benefit to others. For once, I could see that my life had a purpose, and a clear path with which to achieve it, and to understand that, at a time when I felt I’d exhausted all the regular ways of finding lasting happiness, was precious beyond words.

By the time 1998 was turning into ’99, I also had a plan to return to the Tibetan refugee communities in Dharamsala to teach English. That plan soon took solid shape when I met a student of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, as well as someone who continues to this day to be a huge support and friend to me on my path.  It can sometimes be the most simplest of conversations that can change a person’s life, and in my case it was my friend saying, “Hey, you know, you REALLY should go and have a look at Kopan Monastery in Nepal.” Well, that definitely gave so much to what my life is today.

I returned to India in 2001 with a job as an English teacher, and a reservation for the 1-month Kopan course that November.

Kopan Monastery is the touchstone for so many of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s students, and the nourishment and inspiration of Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup remains to leave deep imprints on me. I had to wait until 2002 to meet Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and at that point, the logic of what I was hearing brought me closer to the aspiration to take ordination. I was now looking at a very clear focus with which I could benefit and serve others, as well as reach a goal that would ultimately lift all beings out of dissatisfaction."

Ven. Tenzin Yonten: "Another significant point for me was meeting a Nalanda monk at Kopan in 2002. He stopped me dead in my tracks as I bombarded him with my regular flood of questions that came out when I met a western monk, as I looked for answers on how a regular English guy like me lives as a monastic in the Tibetan tradition. He brought it down to a much more practical level by telling me that the best possible place for me to ‘see’ those answers from different points of view was to offer service at Nalanda Monastery.

After another stay in Kopan for the 2003 1-month course and a 3-month Vajrasattva retreat, the pieces finally came together for me to come to Nalanda and serve the community as their cook and kitchen manager.

In 2004, I took my Getsul vows, and in 2007, I took my full Gelong vows from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India. In this way, I now have this opportunity to help so many beings through devoting all aspects of my life to serving the wishes of His Holiness and Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

I continue to study the teachings and serve Nalanda’s community to the best of my ability. There is no doubt for me that my path remains an adventure with no shortage of internal and external work to develop my mind, but there is also no doubt that I feel my life as a monk is the most fulfilling way to lead my life. I feel so fortunate to be able to call Nalanda my home, and to have so much support from my brothers at Nalanda, my teachers, and my family and friends."

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