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Buddhist monk, author of new book, finds home in the Ozarks

Buddhist monk, author of new book, finds home in the Ozarks by Frank E. Lockwood | October 22, 2022 at 4:44 a.m.
Khentrul Lodro T'haye Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Born in Tibet, he moved to the United States in 2002 and now lives in northern Arkansas. He had a book published last month, "The Power of Mind: A Tibetan Monk's Guide to Finding Freedom in Every Challenge" and is appearing at the Six Bridges Book Festival in Little Rock on Oct. 29, 2022...Courtesy of Eric Swanson Photography

Buddhist monk Khentrul Lodro T'haye Rinpoche grew up in the mountains of Tibet in the midst of the cultural revolution, when China was destroying its monasteries and desecrating its shrines.

These days, he lives in the hills of north Arkansas, freely teaching the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism at the Katog Choling Mountain Retreat Center, near Jasper, and sharing his wisdom with visitors from around the world.

Last month Boulder, Colo.-based Shambhala Publications released his book: "The Power of Mind: A Tibetan Monk's Guide to Finding Freedom in Every Challenge."

Rinpoche emphasizes lojong -- mind training -- as a pathway to serenity and contentment.

"Peace and happiness can be attained, but not by searching for something in the outside world. Peace and happiness are found within ourselves," he writes in the introduction. "If our minds are disturbed, we can never find lasting peace and happiness."

The book offers Buddhist teachings, meditation techniques and "21 actions to adopt that support mind training."

Actor Michael Imperioli, who earned an Emmy for his portrayal of Christopher Moltisanti in HBO's "The Sopranos," says "The Power of Mind" contains wisdom that "can benefit us all; from the absolute beginner to the most seasoned dharma practitioner."

Psychologist Tara Brach calls the book "a deep well of both timeless and practical wisdom."

The monk's followers refer to him as Rinpoche, an honorific given to highly respected lamas. Born in 1965, he is considered a reincarnated master or tulku.

As a child, formal Buddhist teaching "was very much underground," but the principles were nonetheless instilled in him by his mother and others, he said.

He was taught "to not cause harm and to really give love and compassion and kindness," because "every living being was worthy of compassion," he said.

As restrictions on Buddhism eased, he was able to receive formal instruction.

Today, he holds three kenpo degrees -- the equivalent of PhDs -- in Buddhist philosophy and speaks two languages in addition to English: Tibetan and Chinese.

He is also abbot of the Mardo Tashi Choling in Eastern Tibet, his biography notes.

Since arriving in the United States two decades ago to teach at a Buddhist center, he has developed a national following.


Initially, however, he experienced culture shock.

"I didn't speak a word of English when I arrived in this country. Not even 'Hello,'" he said Wednesday, speaking through an interpreter.

"It was quite an experience to land in this country and know absolutely nothing. I didn't know anybody personally," he said.

Before boarding the plane that would take him to America, his friends handed him a piece of paper and encouraged him to share it with those he met.

"Please help this man because he cannot speak English," it said.

Those travelers Rinpoche encountered at the San Francisco International Airport pointed him in the right direction, enabling him to get to his connecting flight to Redding, Calif., on time.

He was met at the airport by Paloma Lopez Landry, a woman who had studied Tibetan in Nepal.

Since then, she has translated his teachings -- and this book -- into English -- for audiences around the world.

After two decades in the United States, Rinpoche's English listening comprehension skills are considerable; he can field questions in his most recently acquired language, but typically prefers to answer them in Tibetan.


He teaches on both coasts and in between his home base is in Newton County.

The property was bought in 2007.

"I was looking for a place in the United States to have a retreat center ... and we were looking all over," he said.

"One of the issues on, say, the East Coast or the West Coast, is it's very expensive," he said.

There's more red tape there, too, he noted.

"We were looking for a place that we could afford and that didn't have really strong zoning laws," he said.

He was seeking "a natural environment with trees and water and mountains, and ideally, beautiful," he said. Somewhere rural but not "so remote that we couldn't get there from anywhere."

"I had various friends and students looking around and a couple of them made a trip to the Ozark Mountains, and we got much more than we could have ever wished for. We love it there," he said.

Early on, he and his followers built a temple on the property, not far from the Buffalo River, incorporating a cave into the design.

Soon, cabins were added. A barn was restored and converted into a gathering place. It's now slated to become a kitchen and dining hall area.

A new temple has been built on a hilltop.


Now that he's a published author, Rinpoche's message is gaining an even larger audience and he oversees meditation groups on four continents.

In recent weeks, he has been on a promotional tour that has taken him across the country, including stops in New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Salt Lake City and even Fairbanks, Alaska.

He'll return to Arkansas next week for the Six Bridges Book Festival in Little Rock, followed by an appearance Nov. 1 at the Meteor Guitar Gallery in Bentonville, then head for Miami, Oxford University in England and London.

Rinpoche stresses the importance of "taming the mind" to cultivate positive, rather than negative, thoughts and emotions, portraying it as the key to peace of mind.

"External circumstances can only get rid of so much suffering and can only give us so much happiness, and it's very limited," he said. "We actually have a capacity for working with our mind to free ourselves from suffering and find true happiness."

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If you go

Khentrul Lodro T’haye Rinpoche will speak:

m At 1 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave., Little Rock, as part of the Six Bridges Book Festival.

m At 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Meteor Guitar Gallery, 128 West Central Ave., Bentonville.

Both events are free and open to the public.



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