“Happiness isn’t material. It is in your soul.”

Inspiring people


Thubten Wangchen (Kyirong, 1954) is a Buddhist monk and founder of Barcelona's Casa Tíbet. He moved to Spain over 30 years ago following an early life marked by misfortune. His mother died in a Chinese labor camp when he was four years old. After the invasion of Tibet, his father carried him across the Himalayas on his shoulders, accompanied by his two brothers. After reaching Kathmandu (Nepal), he spent two years begging on the streets. At the age of six, he and his family traveled to India. Thanks to the Indian government and the Dalai Lama, he got off the streets and received a Tibetan education. At 16, he entered a Buddhist monastery and lived alongside the Dalai Lama for 11 years. This was a dream come true.


What is life like for a Tibetan in Catalonia?

Living in Barcelona is easy. Nothing is complicated. A lot can be learned here, and I'm very happy to live in a city with such interesting cultural diversity.

What is your daily life like?

I meditate every day, even if only for 15 or 20 minutes. It helps me organize my day. My present. I don't think about the future. What matters most is today. We should be grateful—we get to wake up every morning!

Always with a smile...

Of course, it's the most important thing. I head out and say hello to the neighbors, acquaintances, even people I don't know at all.

Inspiring optimism from the moment you wake up...

Of course! We don't live in Germany or Switzerland. We live in Catalonia! We should be more cheerful and set our problems aside, because they won't last forever.

What is the mission of Casa Tíbet?

Our main purpose is to share the history of Tibet, of the country. We want to explain its traditions, culture and religion, which is Buddhism. But our goal isn't to make more Buddhists. We don't want to convert anyone.

What were the founding goals of Casa Tíbet?

We've been around for 22 years. That’s not a very long time, but it isn’t short either. A lot of people know us and participate in our activities, but many others still don't know we exist.

The goal is to let more and more people know that there is a Casa Tíbet in the center of Barcelona...

Yes, but we don't obsess about it. It is true that some people seek something more. They seek inner peace and are interested in Buddhism. It’s a good and peaceful religion.

How would you define Buddhism?

Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion. A day-to-day life philosophy. Be good in your actions and thoughts and live with dignity. Seek solutions to problems, because every problem has a solution.

You lived with the Dalai Lama for 11 years. Tell us about your experience...

It was undoubtedly the greatest gift of my life. I lost my mother as a result of the Chinese invasion, and we had to leave Tibet and go into exile with our father. India took us in and provided us with an education. I eventually got to spend time with the Dalai Lama and lived in his monastery, learning and listening. He is a very humble person, full of humanity and with a big heart.

What did you learn from him?

To never harbor a grudge, to smile, and that we need harmony between all of the world's religions.

What are the values of Buddhism?

Compassion and love for all beings. Not only love for your family, spouse or children, but love for everyone, even animals. And to love and respect the environment, as well as develop your mind and heart—like the wings of a bird that let you fly from the troubled world to paradise.

In other words, heart and mind. They don't work separately from each other?

No. Wisdom and passion are the essence of Buddhism.

What is the main difference between western and eastern life?

Mainly tradition and language. Deep down we all seek the same: peace, happiness, success and health. The difference lies in how we seek. In the West, everything is very immediate and materialistic. Happiness isn't material. It is in your heart, your mind, your conscience and your soul.

Have you become more western over the years?

Yes, definitely. I've been here for 30 years and consider myself Catalan, but on the inside I'm Tibetan. I'm learning from the West. I'm not a monk locked in a cave. I have a social life, and I like it. I'm always out and about.

What do you like most about living in Europe?

Everything is cleaner here, and more resources are available. But I do go to India often. It is my second home, and I like being there. I go four or five times a year. I have friends everywhere.

What do you miss most about your country?

The mountains and nature. I still have family in Tibet, but we've never met.

What is Tibetan food like?

Everything is very healthy and natural. We always eat the same thing, but we really enjoy typically Tibetan dishes like momo or Tibetan tea (tea, milk, butter and salt).

How would you define success from a Buddhist perspective?

Everyone needs success. Internally and externally. Work, family, health, but most importantly, the success that is happiness. It's difficult to have it all. You might have a lot of money, but if you're ill, it's useless.

What is your wish for 2017?

More peace, more harmony, and a solution to the situation of the war refugees. If one works from the heart, everything will get better.


A Brief Taste


A song.

Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley.

A place to get lost in.

Machu Picchu (Peru).

What do you do in your free time?

I don't have a lot of free time. I meditate and listen to music.

A flaw.

Saying “yes” to everything.

A virtue.

I smile a lot, even when I have problems.

What did you want to be when you were small?

A monk. When I was 16, my dream came true.

Categorías: Inspiring people