“How to Be Happy and Free When the World is on Fire” is the topic of an upcoming free community talk by Nepalese Tibetan Buddhist teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28, at the First Presbyterian Church of Salida.

During his talk, Tsoknyi will teach practical ways to discover inner peace amidst challenges and at times when we might otherwise become consumed by difficulties – both in our own lives and around the world.

Michael Kunkel, a student of the Rinpoche, planted the seed for this visit to Salida years ago after meeting Tsoknyi at the Tara Mandala Retreat Center in Pagosa Springs. Later, Kunkel collaborated with Salida filmmaker Nathan Ward in the production of a video about the Rinpoche’s work in Nepal and Tibet, shown locally in 2015. “We are just messengers for what he is doing over there. Salida is ripe for this. The town as a whole is a willing participant in listening to spiritual teachers from different traditions around the world; it’s an open minded community.”

Tsoknyi lives in Kathmandu, Nepal, near the Swayambhunath Temple (also known as the Monkey Temple). He is the creator of the worldwide Pundarika Foundation, which supports thousands of Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhist nuns. The Rinpoche is currently spearheading efforts to build a nunnery and educational campus in Nepal for girls as young as age 4.

Kunkel explained that many of the girls in need of support come from a severely impoverished background. “It’s hard to get an education and a fair shake in life in a third-world country; this gives girls an opportunity for as much as a 20-year, modern Western education, as well as the highest Buddhist teachings.” He went on to note that the United Nations consistently advocates any efforts worldwide to educate young girls in impoverished countries.

Donations supporting the Pundarika Foundation will be accepted during this visit to Salida – the Rinpoche’s first – and will be used toward construction of the campus in Nepal.

Rinpoche began teaching formally in 1992. He is the son of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, whom Kunkel described as one of the truly great spiritual masters of the last century. “His father was renowned for being able to show people the nature of their being; it was so simple. Even as he was dying he wouldn’t stop teaching, and he did everything he could to teach non-violence – that is how much he truly sacrificed his being.”

Tsoknyi Rinpoche comes from a long lineage of Tibetan teachers, and he was recognized as a teacher at an early age. In Buddhism, the term Rinpoche is an honorable term used in the Tibetan language meaning “precious one.”

Kunkel characterized the Rinpoche as a “very amiable teacher who really relates well to the Western world.” Kunkel anticipates that the talk will be stimulating and entertaining with a bit of the Rinpoche’s usual humor woven in throughout the evening. “The whole idea is that any great spiritual teacher is there to benefit mankind. They are there for other beings, and it’s not all about them.”

Kunkel and Ward (Grit & Thistle Film Company) created a short video about the construction of the Pundarika campus in Nepal in 2016; the film will be shown at 6:30 p.m., just prior to the Rinpoche’s talk. The event is sponsored by the Salida Sangha. For more information about the Sangha, visit salidasangha.org. To learn more about the Pundarika Foundation or the Rinpoche, visit TsoknyiRinpoche.org.