San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Tibetan Monk Gives Talks in San José

A Tibetan monk who heads the Casa del Tibet in Barcelona, Spain, concluded a two-week circuit of speeches and guest appearances in Costa Rica last month. Thubten Wangchen is one of perhaps two Tibetan monks who speak Spanish, and acted as spokesman and translator for the monks who made a sand mandala in San José’s Children’s Museum in preparation for the Dalai Lama’s September 2004 visit (TT, Sept. 24, 2004).In an appearance at the Universidad Nacional (UNA) in Heredia, north of San José, he mentioned the Dalai Lama’s consistent praise of Costa Rica’s pacifist foreign policy and his hope that more countries will follow suit and disband their armed forces.In an admittedly off-the-cuff series of remarks that lasted more than an hour and a half, he gave instructions on better living from the point of view of a celibate, robed ascetic. His Spanish is broken and flecked with some evidence of his home in Spain.When the microphone was first placed before him after the introductions, he leaned forward, settled into his seat, swallowed, then said, “Costa Rica, pura vida,” and laughed. He later clarified the point.“You say pura vida, but, on the other hand, there are problems with life (vida),” he said. “Even if you are a President – Bush (has the) war, even the President here, Pacheco…” at which point he laughed uproariously, then continued, “… he has problems.”Throughout the talk, he touched on issues such as life and death, gratitude, the soul, the recent approval of gay marriage in Spain, traffic problems, parenting and PlayStations, unity of religions, drug addicts, ignorance, karma and the exile of the Dalai Lama.“If I get excited, I can talk for hours and hours,” he said, falling just short of proving it.Using his experience with China as a touchstone for personal growth, he said his mother was among the one million Tibetans the Chinese killed in their invasion of the country in the 1950s. People might wonder, “How is it possible not to think of that and be mad?” he said. His response: “No. I can feel sorry for them because they are ignorant.” Costa Rica is not so badly off, he commented.“Costa Rica is not poor compared to some African countries,” he said. “It’s on the middle path – not good, not bad, in the middle.”One of the central themes of the talk was summed up in his opening comments, when he said, “Every house has an alarm clock or two because our minds are asleep. But the mind is very powerful. We can awaken, increase our wisdom and knowledge through education and by opening our hearts.”The Tibetan-Costa Rican Cultural Association (ACTC), which was not responsible for Wangchen’s visit but is a cultural connection between the two countries, holds meditations Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 7-9 p.m., and is open Monday through Friday, 2-6 p.m. For information, call 258-0254.

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