His body is 21, but according to Buddhist teachings, his spirit is more than 200 years old.
Sanchu Rinpoche (Rinpoche is a title which means “Precious One”) is the fifth incarnation of a Buddhist teacher who lived in the early 1800s.
“He was a great scholar and a qualified master,” Rinpoche said. “Most of the time he spent his time in the Himalayas as a yogi.”
Rinpoche will be speaking at the Bodhi Path Buddhist Center on Falls Road. Guest speakers are not uncommon at the Center. Sonam Rinchen of the Center estimated that they have a guest teacher, on average, every two months. “I would say more often in the summer months,” he said.
The first Sanchu Rinpoche lived to the age of 82, which he predicted. The second also lived in Tibet, and the third lived there until the Chinese invasion, when he fled to Nepal. “He came to Nepal and went to a pilgrimage site in Nepal,” Rinpoche said.
The fourth died at the age of two. “The fourth was also born to the same mother [as me],” Rinpoche said. “In the body we are brothers, in the mind we are the same.”
Rinpoche, a high lama of the Karma Kagyu lineage, explained that while all people are reincarnated, only the most enlightened can choose the form they will take.
“Everyone has taken a rebirth,” he said. “A highly qualified teacher can transmit himself.” Rinpoche was recognized as the fifth by manifesting what he called “abnormal signs.” When he visited the Swayambhunath Monastery in Katmandu, Nepal at the age of one, he acted like he’d been there. “Immediately when I got to the monastery, I started to cry there and told [my parents] that my place was there,” he said.
Rinpoche said he also recognized several of the other monks as if they were old friends he had not seen in a long time.
HE BEGAN his studies in meditation at the age of seven. When he reached the age of 18, he went into a meditation retreat with about 15 others at Pharping monastery in Nepal.
“All days were the same,” Rinpoche said. The monks had no outside human contact.
After waking at 3 a.m. the monks would meditate for three hours. “Posture is very important in the meditation practice,” Rinpoche said. He demonstrated that during meditation, the monks would sit on a simple couch with their legs bent and spine straight. They would then relax their hands and place them in their lap.
At 6 a.m. the first meditation session would end and the monks would have breakfast and say their morning prayers. Form 8 to 11 a.m. they would meditate before an 11:30 lunch.
They would then get a break when they would be able to complete chores such as laundry or cleaning. At 1 p.m. another three-hour session would begin. from 4-5 p.m. they would pray and from 5-6 p.m. would practice yoga.
The yoga he learned, known as the Six Yogas of Naropa, is different from the yoga with which most Americans are familiar. “It deals with physical movement at the same time with mental realization,” Rinpoche said.
There would be a short dinner and then at 6:30 there would be another session of meditation. At 9:30, more prayers.
When Rinpoche prays, he does not typically direct his prayers to a deity. “I normally dedicate the prayers to every human being,” he said.
He spent more than three years in the retreat, and did not grow bored with the routine. “I was interested. When you are interested, you don’t get bored,” he said.
But even fellow Buddhists acknowledge that this is not usual.
“They are not ordinary people,” said Huei-ling Worthy of the Bodhi Path Center in Potomac. “I did it for three and a half weeks and I got bored.”
Rinpoche completed his retreat at the beginning of this year and has been touring the world and lecturing. He also serves as regent of the monastery in Nepal, but hopes one day to be able to go to the land he considers his home. “I feel bad that I can’t point it out and say, ‘There is Tibet,’” he said longing for a place he can call home. “I will feel very good to have Tibet back.”