China / Society

Villager's path takes him from Buddhist monk to businessman

By Palden Nyima (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-29 06:51

Villager's path takes him from Buddhist monk to businessman

Monk-turned farmer Tsering recites a poem. He says religion and helping others make him happy. Palden Nyima / China Daily

Tsering is a successful farmer and businessman who says his main aim is to get rich - but two decades ago his life could not have been more different.

Back then he embraced the austere existence of a Buddhist monk and devoted himself to spiritual, rather than worldly, matters.

"I had very little interest in material pleasures while I was a fully ordained monk 20 years ago," he said.

"Learning and meditation were the two most important things in my life, and I had a chance to explore key disciplines such as logic, astrology and poetry."

Tsering, 40, was born in Maizhokunggar county in the Tibet autonomous region, and at the age of 14 he became a monk at Gandan Monastery - one of Lhasa's three key Gelukpa school monasteries.

Ngawang Drakpa, one of his former masters, said: "Tsering was a diligent monk. He worked very hard to learn Buddhist scriptures and never slept more than five hours a day.

"He had one meal each day and observed 253 religious disciplines to make himself a better monk."

So what made him abandon this quest for spiritual enlightenment and enter the world of business, a very unusual step for a Tibetan monk to take?

The life-changing moment came when his older sister fell seriously ill. There was no one to run the family farm and businesses, so at the age of 22, Tsering returned home.

Afterward, when his sister recovered, he considered going back to the monastery, but by then he felt he had broken his vows so he decided to continue his new life.

His two brothers had moved to Nyingchi prefecture, so he settled there as well, in the village of Thangdi, and is now married. However the influence of the monastery has never left him.

Tsewang Norbu, a farmer in the village, said: "Tsering has a kind heart and is a hardworking man. Whenever we want religious rituals to be performed, he always agrees to do them."

Tsering said: "The education I received in the monastery influenced me greatly. Though I have changed my life's role I have never stopped reading my scriptures.

"As a farmer, I do not have time to devote all of my energy to religious activities. However, I feel I cannot live without them.

"Presently my main goal is to get rich, so I work hard to make money and I am making good progress - I have an herbal business, a small sand factory and an oil mill.

"But becoming rich is not my only goal. Happiness is more important to me, and I feel happiness whenever I help others."

Tsering does not just provide spiritual solace to his fellow villagers. He also makes sure they share in his material success.

He employs 15 different villagers in his fields each day, and has set up a medicinal herb business with seven other families.

In addition, 40 households invested in his oil mill, and he expects that this year the business will generate 3,000 yuan for each investor.

Liru, a village official, said: "Tsering is the first one in this village to plant wild herbs in the fields, and he is the first one who provided fair job opportunities for villagers.

"Apart from generating income, the other reason he plants herbs is to save endangered herbal species."

When Tsering is not working, he writes poems, sings and reflects on the unusual path on which his life has taken him.

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