Interview with Rinchen Khando and Tibetan Nuns Project
In the 1960s, Rinchen Khando became involved in the Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA), which her sister founded. The TWA was established to promote women’s rights and raise awareness about the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Rinchen Khando became the president of the TWA in 1987 and held the position for over two decades. Under Rinchen Khando’s leadership, the TWA has significantly promoted women’s education and empowerment in Tibet. The organization has established schools for girls in remote areas of Tibet, provided scholarships for women to pursue higher education, and advocated for women’s rights internationally. In 2006, Rinchen Khando was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honors, in recognition of her contributions to women’s education and empowerment in Tibet. She has also received numerous other awards and accolades for her work, including the International Women of Courage Award from the US State Department in 2008.
As we interviewed Rinchen Khando, we asked questions that enabled us to get answers that we were genuinely interested in. One of my personal favorites was a question I helped create which asked, “In an interview with Venerable Thubten Chodron in 1992, you said ‘Trying to preserve our own happiness in a self-centered way actually makes us more fearful and unhappy’, what is the best way to teach young people to act for the common good when it doesn’t immediately benefit them?” This is an important question because it relates to the development of empathy, altruism, and a sense of social responsibility, which are crucial for creating a healthy and thriving society. She responded to this by bringing up “pure intention” which she believes we need to instill a sense of within our young. She said we shall do this without any benefit, or expecting something in return, then even if it doesn’t work out, we won’t be disappointed. Ultimately, teaching young people to act for the common good requires a multifaceted approach that focuses on empathy, social responsibility, and community building. She also brought up inner peace in her response which was a common theme in all of our conversations. This led into one of the questions I asked her, “How have your beliefs and values helped you navigate difficult circumstances, both politically and personally?” Her response was similar, with her main message being not to lose hope. Inner peace is also important, and something people are lacking nowadays is patience as well as perseverance, which are essential to navigating life, both the highs and the lows. Her words about inner peace really struck me as I believe it is an essential component of a healthy and fulfilling life. As a whole, inner peace refers to a state of calm, tranquility, and contentment that arises from within. When we are at peace with ourselves, we experience less stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. We are better able to cope with life’s challenges, and we are less likely to get overwhelmed by them. This, in turn, improves our mental and physical health. Inner peace also helps us to develop better relationships with others. When we are calm and centered, we are more patient, understanding, and compassionate towards others. We are less likely to be reactive and more likely to respond in a thoughtful and empathetic way. This helps to build stronger connections with others and promotes a sense of unity and understanding. Ultimately, by cultivating inner peace, we can live more fulfilling and meaningful lives, and make a positive impact on the world around us. Overall, Rinchen Khando’s life and work are a testament to the power of education and the importance of fighting for human rights and equality. She is an inspiration to people all over the world, and her legacy will continue to inspire generations to come.
Today we drove to the Dolma Ling Nunnery to interview Rinchen Khando, the sister-in-law of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the founding director and special advisor at the Tibetan Nuns Project. The Tibetan Nuns Project is a nonprofit organization that helps support Buddhist nuns study and advance their education while exiled in India. When we arrived, we were given a tour of the nunnery which included the kitchen, dining hall, sewing and work rooms, the temple, and then we were taken upstairs to the room where the interview would take place. The room was very simple, yet elegant; tables with tea and cookies had been set up, the walls were covered in art, and the windows looked out into the serene courtyard in the middle of the compound. The interview did not go exactly as expected, but Ms. Khando had a plethora of interesting and insightful things to say, and was a lovely host. One thing that I really enjoyed hearing her talk about was the way that Tibetan youth interact with their heritage and culture. I was expecting her to talk about the difficulties of getting younger generations to care about a place they had never lived before, but she surprised me when she said that young people are very interested in Tibetan culture and religion. She also said that because children are so interested in the culture and religion, the elders are being forced to be interested accordingly, and this is helping keep the language and culture alive.
In the interview, Ms. Khando also spoke on the importance of women empowering each other, but she said something that I had not thought about before. She emphasized that empowerment has to be given genuinely, and has to be given willingly rather than forced. A lot of times we see empowerment being given to women forcefully, or when it is not necessarily wanted; instead it must only be given when its reception is enjoyed. Although I have heard this many times, my most important takeaway from this interview was that in order to be happy, we must be content. If we are always wanting more, such as money or cars, or a more “exciting” life, then we do not have the time to be happy. I think this takeaway is especially important living in the United States because there is such an emphasis on always needing more. The ideas of the “American Dream”, and the need to be “successful” are so prevalent in the United States, and they prevent so many people from ever being content. So many people waste away their lives wanting more than they have, rather than enjoying their life and what they do have. When we stop looking for things that we think will make us happier, we are able to truly be content, and find our true happiness.
Today we interviewed Rinchen Khando, the former director of the Tibetan Women’s Association. She was so well spoken and wise, and it was one of my favorite interviews out of all the Values trips. She had so much to say, and one thing that struck me was about empowerment. She talked about how empowerment has to be given genuinely and received happily. That also went along with something else she said about how if people are doing things for others, they have to do it out of pure intention, not for themselves. Throughout the interview she emphasized having inner peace, and the ways to keep it alive. One way was not only to earn for yourself, but to earn for others. To keep that inner peace alive, you have to give back to your community.
In a world full of distractions and competitions, we are always trying to have the best and be the best, but we don’t take the time to really look and appreciate what we have in the moment. Khando gave an example that we are always looking at our neighbors who have a fancy car and huge house, and we can never be content because we don’t have what they have. We tend to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do, and when we do that, we then start to lose our inner peace because we aren’t content with what we have. We don’t do a lot for our hearts, we do it for our image. She joked about how people are discovering too much and inventing too much, but is it to help the greater population or is it to get fame and have their name on it?
I asked her if she had any advice for us on how to have a balance between having a successful career and achieving permanent happiness. She talked about letting your heart choose your career because nowadays people choose a career for the salary or the fame, not because it’s what they truly love doing. If you choose a career that will give you more money but it isn’t what you are passionate about, you will lose your inner peace because you won’t be happy. That spoke to me because I am choosing a career that doesn’t make a lot of money, but it’s my passion and I’ve been nervous that I am making the wrong decision because I won’t have a lot of money. She reassured me and reminded me that money isn’t happiness and if you are doing what you love it will reward you in a deeper way then money ever could. In the end she taught me to be content with what I have by living simply and to follow my heart and passion to keep my inner peace alive.