Ven. Khenpo Yonten Phuntsho: Teachings from the heart of Bhutan

Although Bhutan has an extremely small population – only 777,486 as of my writing this – the country’s collective devotion means that a significant portion of families are lineage holders. Some are more prominent than others, such as the nation’s Je Khenpos or mega-star teachers like Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. However, there are plenty of locally based Bhutanese teachers that are making a considerable difference in their communities. One example who I am proud to know is Ven. Khenpo Yonten Phuntsho, principal of Ugyen Dongak Shedrup Dargye Ling in Sarpang District.

Khenpo Yonten Phuntsho’s father, Ven. Lama Tsewang Dorji, established Ugyen Dongak Shedrup Dargye Ling in June 2017 (the opening ceremony was held by HH Gangteng Rinpoche). The family is of the Nyingma Pedling lineage, and Khenpo Yonten’s main interest is in Buddhist philosophy. When managing the monastic community in his district, Khenpo Yonten believes that the intention should be, as he says. “first to benefit the broader country, before zooming in on the regional populace, then town, then local community. I also want to give our monks the best education as possible, in variety of subjects.”

Although he became a monk relatively early in life, he believes that laypeople are critical to the life of religious practice all across Bhutan. “What role to they play in our daily activities, rituals, and festivals? They participate by performing prayers, doing meditation, and visiting sacred sites across the country. They also come to help clean during national and local festivals.” He also encourages both monastics and laypeople to meditate, since meditation is very important for cultivating a peaceful mindset. “Both our bodies and minds need to be peaceful and harmonious,” he notes.

For the average person, Khenpo Yonten advises mindfulness meditation. “To manage our stressful lives in these chaotic times, it is very important to first understand what really is going on with our minds,” he says. “This is the basic Buddhist insight and contribution to living a better life. “For example, if we get angry, then first we should observe why we are angry: where does this angry feeling come from, why is it arising within us? When we are not calm or observing ourselves, we will pin the blame on an external source, like someone else. But when we look deeply inside ourselves, we will discern that our anger is but a process happening within us that we can calmly observe and allow to pass, like a cloud, and hence suffer much less.”

Overall, Khenpo Yonten teaches that we should deploy our “wisdom mind” and adopt a meditative approach to life, to embody meditation in our daily lives for that the Buddhadharma can be manifest. 

See more

Ugyen Dongak Shedrup Dargye Ling (Facebook)

Related blog posts from BDG

The Bodhi Stupa in Gelephu, Bhutan: A To-Be-Completed Structure of Beauty and Compassion