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Personal Journey — Tsewang Sherpalama

The Simple Monk — CD Release
Simple Monk — The Lyrics

1. From Nepal to the US, could you tell us how you arrived here and what some of your life experiences have been?

I went to the United Kingdom to study before I came to the United States of America. While in the UK, I received an offer to work in the Police Force of Nepal. I decided to return to my country when a good friend of mine, Sir Alfred Gregory, the official photographer for the Tenzing and Hillary Everest Expedition to Mt. Everest, advised me to visit the United States of America before returning to Nepal. I took his advice and came to New York in May of 1982. At that time there were only four Sherpas in New York. Of them two were my uncles who were training to become pilots. Being a pilot was the most prestigious job in Nepal at that time. When I found that it would cost 10,000.00 dollars and only six months to become a pilot, I made a mistake and dreamt of "catching a bird" while letting the "bird in my hand" fly. I postponed my return to Nepal and began to work to save money for my dream of flying high........ As time went by, like most visitors in New York, I became fond of New York and the life it offered to me.

2. Have there been any major changes in your life? Why and how did this transformation arise?

I am who I was ....with the exception that maybe with more resources and material comfort to support my family, which basically came from working days and nights. Oh! One major change in my life has been the pleasure of having a beautiful wife, who shares many common interests with me, and our three bright, healthy children.

3. When did you start writing songs and what are some of the songs and albums you have written?

Writing in general was an old habit of mine since my teenage years. As I got married to the most beautiful woman, I began to express my feelings to her with passion and dedication. My dearest wife responded by saying that I should have been a song writer (in a teasing manner, I guess!). Her teasing became a motivation for me to re-invent my old teenage habit into my hobby at this young age. Since then, I have written as many as 300 songs and released four albums: PARDESH BATA, MERO PYARO SOLU KHUMBU, MERO AOTA SAPPANA TSA, YO MAYAKO SAAGAR, and two more, which will be releasing soon.

4. What inspired you to write songs about His Holiness (HH) the Dalai Lama?

" I realized that his [Buddha's] teachings are more publicized in the developed and/or western world and less in the underdeveloped and eastern countries like Nepal, where Buddha was born."

HH the Dalai Lama has significantly impacted many people's life and I am no exception. He instilled love for humanity in me, once a person with a communist ideology. I find him to be the greatest messenger of Buddha's messages. I realized that his teachings are more publicized in the developed and/or western world and less in the underdeveloped and eastern countries like Nepal, where Buddha was born. I felt that if nothing, the least I could do is talk about him and his teaching in my own society and countrymen in a language they understand, which is what I am currently doing and will continue to do. I only wish I had written songs about the teaching of HH the Dalai Lama sooner for the people of Nepal. Perhaps, Nepal would not have been bleeding like it is today.

5. You have donated the entire CD album to Migyul. What made you do this?

"I write songs hoping it would benefit the listeners of my songs and the people they care about. I realized, after reading Migyul that Migyul is doing the same thing by publishing articles that benefit its readers and the communities they care about. That is why I decided to lend a hand to Migyul as a token of my family's appreciation for the great work they are doing."

I write songs hoping it would benefit the listeners of my songs and the people they care about. I realized, after reading Migyul that Migyul is doing the same thing by publishing articles that benefit its readers and the communities they care about. That is why I decided to lend a hand to Migyul as a token of my family's appreciation for the great work they are doing. Besides, as a human I must do some Dharma to make sure I don't go to hell. My choice of doing Dharma is to do what I can with what I have. What a convenient way to do Dharma! Ha ha ha ha.....

6. You have founded a charity organization called The Sherpa Sewa, America. What is the mission of Sherpa Sewa and what has been accomplished so far?

The Sherpa Sewa America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making sure no orphan and disadvantaged Sherpa students are left behind simply because their fate played "jokes" with them. The mission of The Sherpa Sewa America is to provide financial help so that these socially neglected are educated for a better society. Over the course of a brief two years period, the Sherpa Sewa America has provided financial help to eight Sherpa students, in Nepal, to continue their educational goals. The Sherpa Sewa America has also honored four Sherpas in Nepal with financial rewards and letters of appreciation for their dedication in preserving the Sherpa language and culture. The Sherpa Sewa America remains committed and focused in achieving our mission in the years to come.

7. Presently, you are the president of THE NEPAL CENTER. What is the Nepal Center? Who is in it? what are its goals?

Nepal Center is a united idea consisting of Nepalese people from different professional backgrounds and representatives of different Nepalese organizations in New York and other areas. Currently, there are about eighty five individuals from different Nepalese origins and professional backgrounds who are either members of the trustees or board of directors. The main objective of The Nepal Center is to rent, buy, or build a community center in New York for people of Nepalese origins. Once rented, bought, or built, this center will serve the Nepalese community by providing space to organize events either free of charge or at an affordable rate. This Center shall represent the unity and pride of Nepal and people of Nepalese origin.

8. You served two years as President of the Sherpa Kyidug in New York. You then resigned when you were elected again for the 2nd term. As far as I understand, you did not run for the election to be a board member. Why?

There are a great deal of Sherpas who want to serve our community. I believe in making room for those who wish to serve as board members by not competing for the position and supporting them. I for one shall remain deeply committed to doing what I can within my ability. I see no need for me to be elected in order to carry out my duty as a Sherpa. Besides, Sherpa Kyidug, to me, is as holy as the heavens. The word "election" in modern society has been politically corrupted. Sherpa Kyidug is a community based organization for the Sherpa people by the Sherpa people and it must be run by the Sherpa people according to the moral system of the Sherpa culture. It is in our culture to do social activities with a system of LAWA, a balanced selection of care takers with a clear responsibility. Our ancestors have been living in harmony with the system of LAWA when it comes to taking care of community activities.

9. What has been your greatest achievement in life?

So far I am happy with what I have and what I have done. However my greatest achievement remains to be achieved. When I am convinced that there are no Sherpa orphans and disadvantaged children left behind in the Sherpa community, I shall realize that I have achieved something great.

10. We have heard that you are writing a book on the SHERPAS. Why another book on Sherpas, aren't there enough books on Sherpas already?

" BELIEVED TO BE? APPROXIMATELY? I don't buy such statements. How can one not find the history of humans five hundred years ago, considering all the technological equipment available in today's world? Therefore, with many curiosities, I am writing a book on Sherpas to address such issues of importance to us Sherpas."

Yes, there are many books written about the Sherpas. I don't claim to have read all of them. Those that I have read about the Sherpas, a little over five dozen books, I find are more like fairy-tale Sherpa story books. I do not see any history in them. I see no in-depth anthropological research that has been done so far about the origins of the Sherpa people by any writer. I find no concrete historical, architectural and/or any valuable documented evidence to sustain many of the theories presented in these books written about the Sherpas. It seems to me that all these books are either written for the purpose of securing a doctorate degree or to capitalize the fame of the Sherpas. If you read any books written so far about the origin of the Sherpas you will find that Sherpas are BELIEVED TO BE migrated from Tibet, Kham to Nepal APPROXIMATELY five hundred years ago. BELIEVED TO BE? APPROXIMATELY? I don't buy such statements. How can one not find the history of humans five hundred years ago, considering all the technological equipment available in today's world? Therefore, with many curiosities, I am writing a book on Sherpas to address such issues of importance to us Sherpas. Who knows, Sherpas may have been living in the Himalayas for thousands of years. We might be the modern version of the YETI. We may be the children of Guru Rimpoche. Who knows? We may not even be who we are believed to be. That is why I am writing this book on the Sherpas.

11. How does your family feel about your time spent in writing and social work, which must take a lot of your time away from them?

I am blessed, what can I say! My family is more supportive to my interests than I could possibly ask for. My wife has been the source of motivation for everything I do. We have established a tradition in our family to make our individual interests a part of our dinner conversation. So in fact, my writing songs and doing social work has been a kind of intellectual and entertaining time spent amongst my family. Besides, frankly speaking, my time is managed by my lovely wife, Ang Phurba for better or worse.

12. In a personal matter, both of your high school children are attending the prestigious Stuyvesant High School and Brooklyn Tech. Beside their own intelligence and hard work, what else have you and your wife done to prepare them in being accepted in such competitive schools?

My wife and I knew that our children were born with good minds. To our surprise, they grew up with the understanding that being born with a good mind itself was not enough. They developed to become a better people. We attribute their achievements to their own imaginations and dreams. We, as parents, reinforced the idea that if they imagine it, they can achieve it and if they dream it, they can become it. My wife devoted all her time with motherly love and untiring dedication in making sure our children have all the tools and a scholastic environment needed to shape their own destiny. I always reminded them that they have to do their own growing no matter how tall their grandfathers are. Together, we supported them in making their own way, completely on their own. We believed in our children. That is all we did.

13. Your comment and advice on Migyul, a Himalayan Community Magazine?

"Migyul, I feel, is a part of me. It would be my privilege to do what I can to support this part of me. My advice is to keep flowing like a river that passes through many obstacles in order to become an ocean for the Himalayan community."

Migyul, a Himalayan community magazine, is like a piece of marble to me, as a writer. Migyul what a wonderful piece of marble where one can write and read good things for the Himalayan community and humanity in general. Migyul, I feel, is a part of me. It would be my privilege to do what I can to support this part of me. My advice is to keep flowing like a river that passes through many obstacles in order to become an ocean for the Himalayan community. Once a year, it would be nice to recognize writers of articles that touch reader's minds and hearts. Like Nuru Sherpa for his poem titled "I have failed... ?"

14. As a community oriented person, what do you feel that the Himalayan community lacks here? Do you have any suggestions?

I think the most important thing lacking in the Himalayan community is interaction among different ethnic people of the Himalayan community. We may be different in our own terms but we have many common activities, common interests, common goals, and yet all of us do our own thing instead of doing it together. It does not have to be this way. As people of the Himalayan community we can celebrate Losar together. We can go to Lhapso together. We can organize cultural programs together and the list goes on and on............ The least we can do is celebrate Buddha's Birthday together. I hope we do.