…𝒆𝒙𝒑𝒍𝒐𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒊𝒏𝒔𝒑𝒊𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒂 𝒕𝒆𝒂𝒄𝒉𝒆𝒓’𝒔 𝒔𝒑𝒊𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒖𝒂𝒍 𝒒𝒖𝒆𝒔𝒕 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒍𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒐𝒏𝒔 𝒉𝒆 𝒃𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈𝒔 𝒇𝒓𝒐𝒎 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒄𝒍𝒂𝒔𝒔𝒓𝒐𝒐𝒎 𝒕𝒐 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒎𝒐𝒏𝒂𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒚
In a truly remarkable and life-altering transformation, 30-year-old Ugyen Lhendup, formerly an educator, has embarked on an extraordinary spiritual journey. His path has led him away from a successful teaching career to embrace the life of a monk at the Choki Gyatsho Institute in Dewathang, under the auspices of Dzongsar Jamyang Khentse Rinpoche and Memey Lama Sonam Zangpo’s Yangsi Drubgyud Tenzin. This profound transition from the classroom to the monastery has captured the attention and stirred introspection among those who once knew him as a dedicated teacher.
Hailing from Momnangkhar in Phongmey gewog under Trashigang Dzongkhag, Ugyen began his academic journey at the College of Language and Cultural Studies. There, he immersed himself in the study of Bhutanese and Himalayan studies, eventually earning an Honors degree in the same field in 2018.
Following his success in the Royal Civil Service Examination, he furthered his education by obtaining a Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling and Contemplative Psychology (PgDCCP) from Samtse College of Education. His educational path eventually led him to Ramjar Middle Secondary School in Trashiyangtse Dzongkhag, where he served as a dedicated school counselor for a period of three years and three months.
Ugyen Lhendup’s journey from educator to monk was profoundly influenced by his lifelong dream. Since his early childhood, he harbored a deep-seated aspiration to embrace the monastic way of life. This dream was a constant part of him, and he distinctly remembers sharing his ambitions with his schoolteachers when questioned about his future aspirations. It was this enduring calling that served as the catalyst for his life-altering transformation.
As a teacher and counselor, Ugyen Lhendup enjoyed a close connection with his students and the world of education. Nevertheless, his roles exposed him to the multifaceted challenges and suffering experienced by individuals in society. These experiences, particularly those centered around family issues and the complexities of human relationships, played a pivotal role in shaping his perspective.
His encounters led him to question the institution of marriage and the idea of starting a family, as he increasingly encountered stories of quarrels, fights, divorces, and court cases that seemed to echo a cycle of suffering. In response to this perceived suffering, he began to seek a different path.
Among the many experiences that impacted Ugyen Lhendup’s journey towards monastic life, one event stood out as a defining moment. During a winter break, he participated in a three-week mindfulness program at the Choki Gyatsho Institute, followed by a week-long retreat. This period of isolation from society revealed to him a previously undiscovered serenity.
As days passed in the retreat, he found himself experiencing an inner peace that had eluded him amidst the chaos of daily life. This newfound tranquility served as the profound calling he had long awaited, prompting him to embark on his monastic journey.
While Ugyen Lhendup acknowledges that immediate impact may be limited as he undergoes his basic monastic studies, he holds a vision of making significant contributions to society in the future. Drawing from his background in counseling, he aspires to assist young minds in their quest for truth through Buddhist philosophy. His aim is to provide support to individuals in understanding their issues from diverse angles.
Transitioning from teaching to monkhood has also prompted Ugyen Lhendup to reevaluate his perspective on education. He observes that the current educational approach, influenced by Western paradigms, may offer only a limited view of mindfulness and related practices.
He believes that by incorporating elements from Buddhist texts into mindfulness education, students can gain a deeper understanding of this practice. However, he acknowledges the need to respect religious boundaries and customize Buddhist teachings for individuals of different faiths. He emphasizes the importance of including lessons on change and enhancing psychological services within the educational curriculum.
Even as he embraces his new life as a monk, Ugyen Lhendup openly admits that he misses various aspects of his life as a counselor and teacher. He fondly recalls the lively interactions with students in the classroom, where they enthusiastically responded to his questions.
He particularly misses moments when students would raise personal questions during career and value education classes, even if these inquiries occasionally presented challenges in explaining complex concepts. The anticipation of clients seeking counseling services also holds a special place in his heart.
Upon sharing his decision to become a monk with his former students, Ugyen Lhendup received a diverse range of reactions. Some found it difficult to believe, while others offered unwavering support. A few students even began preparing for his departure with love and gifts. The emotional farewell from his students, including tears and heartfelt farewells, reinforced the profound impact he had made on their lives.
Surprisingly, Ugyen Lhendup has discovered striking parallels between his roles as a teacher and a monk. Both vocations center on working for the betterment of others and share the common intention of helping sentient beings. These similarities have both surprised and inspired him, suggesting that there is more connecting the two paths than initially met the eye.
While embarking on his monastic journey has presented challenges, Ugyen Lhendup has been resourceful in incorporating his teaching skills and experiences into his new way of life. He acknowledges that starting afresh can be demanding, but with the assistance of individuals at the institute, he is gradually adapting his skills to his current role. His counseling abilities occasionally prove invaluable in managing his emotions, while his former teaching experiences have instilled in him the importance of listening, a fundamental skill he continues to practice.
He also meticulously references multiple texts to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the teachings he encounters, leveraging his proficiency in English to access relevant materials.
Ugyen Lhendup shares words of wisdom for individuals considering a similar transformative journey towards becoming a monk. He does not frame it as advice but instead imparts a valuable lesson gleaned from the teachings he has encountered on his own path. Drawing from the text “Bodhisattva Charaya Avatar,” he emphasizes the rarity and preciousness of human existence. He stresses the importance of making the most of this human life to help oneself and others, as the opportunity may not arise again in the future.
In contemplating the brevity and unpredictability of life, he warns against ceaseless longing for more without fulfillment, as it can lead to life’s challenges.
Regarding the practical aspects of his transition, Ugyen Lhendup expresses uncertainty about certain benefits. He shares that while he was not sure about the service requirement after his placement as a teacher, he later learned that benefits would be deducted due to his failure to complete a five-year term. The HR section of the Dzongkhag confirmed that he would not receive full benefits as a result.
Ugyen Lhendup’s journey from teacher to monk is a testament to the transformative power of one’s inner calling and the profound impact that education can have on shaping one’s perspective. His story is an inspiring reminder of the diverse paths that individuals may choose to follow in their pursuit of truth and fulfillment.
As Ugyen Lhendup pursues his monastic studies and strives to have a beneficial impact on the world, his journey offers a compelling narrative for anyone who comes across his extraordinary story, prompting them to reflect and contemplate.