“Go… don’t come back until you’re able to help others” – An Interview with Phuntsog Wangyal

Don’t come back until you’re able to help others.  With these words of his master in his mind, Phuntsog Wangyal, a teenage monk left Tibet in 1958 with the dream of soon returning to his homeland.

Phuntsog Wangyal, Founding Trustee of Tibet Foundation, is a former Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama based at The Office of Tibet in London and a former Member of the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies in India (Tibetan Parliament in Exile). In July 2009 he was awarded the ‘Friendship Medal’ by the Mongolian government, in recognition of efforts to restore the traditional culture and heritage of Mongolia. In 2014, Phuntsog Wangyal was awarded an Honorary Doctorate degree by the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London where he is a Honorary Fellow.

“Оюунлаг Оршихуй” цуврал подкастын 20 дахь дугаарын зочноор 1990-ээд оны эхээр Монголд бурханы шашныг сэргээн дэлгэрүүлэх үйлсэд үлэмж хувь нэмэр оруулсан, Далай ламын Британи дахь бие төлөөлөгчөөр томилогдон, Түвдийн Төвийг 1981 онд Лондон хотноо байгуулж байсан, Түвдийн сангийн тэргүүн асан Пунцаг Ваанжил гуай уригдан, сэтгүүлч Б.Жавхлантай дурсамж сэдрээн хууч хөөрлөө.

Тэрээр 1992 онд Монголд бурханы шашныг дахин сэргээх төслийг Далай ламын даалгавараар боловсруулан, уг төслийн хүрээнд Энэтхэгт олон залуу лам нарыг сургах үйл хэргийг эхлүүлсэн нь өнөөгийн Монголын бурхан шашны дэлгэрэлтэд онцгой үүрэг гүйцэтгэсэн билээ. Уг төслийн хүрээнд Buddhism in Mongolia нэртэй 2 боть ном хэвлүүлэн гаргаж байсан.

Түүний үйл хэргийг үнэлж Монгол улсын Ерөнхийлөгчөөс “Найрамдал” медалиар шагнажээ.

Phuntsog Wangyal was a founding trustee of Tibet Foundation, a UK charity that has made a significant contribution towards education, health-care and economic and spiritual development amongst the Tibetan communities across Asia. He served as the charity’s Chairman and Director for many decades.

Born in 1944, Mr Wangyal became a monk and studied Buddhism in Tibet at a young age. In 1959 he escaped amid an arduous journey to India, where he was educated at St Joseph’s College and later at Delhi and Jawaharlal Universities, graduating with an MA and MPhil in Politics and International Relations. Following this he became the Assistant Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala established by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In 1973 he came to London where he conducted research on the life of the 13th Dalai Lama and the concept of reincarnation, and taught Tibetan language at SOAS. For many years he served the Tibetan community as a council member and later as its chairman. In 1980 he returned to Tibet as a member of a pivotal delegation sent at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as part of a fact-finding delegation, followed by interviews and accounts of his visit including the BBC documentary series ‘The World About Us’. In 1981 he was appointed the London Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the Office of Tibet was established.

In 1985 Mr Wangyal founded Tibet Foundation, which has since become one of the most highly respected Tibetan charities to date, offering practical, long-term support to Tibetans living both inside Tibet as well as India and Nepal.

He has also catalysed support for Mongolians in the revival of their Buddhist tradition and practice across Mongolia. In July 2009 he was awarded the “Friendship Medal” by the Mongolian President for the Foundation’s significant contribution to the development of cooperation between Mongolia and the United Kingdom, in recognition of efforts to restore its traditional culture and spiritual heritage.

Mr Wangyal has travelled internationally and written many articles on Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, including ‘The Influence of Religion on Tibetan Politics’, The Tibet Journal 1975; ‘The Tibetans: two perspectives on Tibetan-Chinese Relations’, Minority Rights Group 1983; ‘Tibet and Development’, Tibet Foundation Newsletter 2004; ‘Tibetan Buddhism’, Encyclopaedia of Peace 2008.

Mr Phuntsog Wangyal received an honorary doctorate at the 2014 SOAS Graduation Ceremony, University of London. The Tibet Foundation was set up in 1985 and closed in 2021.

On Wednesday, 24th May 2023 from 12.30pm to 1pm, Tashi Lhunpo monks will Pray for World Peace at the Tibetan Peace Garden. This year marks the 24th anniversary of the Tibetan Peace Garden, which was consecrated and opened by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 13th May 1999.

Author: Tsering Passang (Tsamtruk)

NGO Professional | Activist | Author | Founder and Chairman, Global Alliance for Tibet & Persecuted Minorities (GATPM)

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