July 9, 2015 11:16 AM EDT

Some say that your message–which is cheerful and appeals to upper-middle-class Westerners–is counter to the more fraught situation on the ground in Tibet. How do you see that tension?

We are not representing, directly, inside Tibet. Many Tibetans have the opportunity to come to India and join our school, so then after they get some education level, they return. More of these connections are taking place on the personal, individual level.

If you could meet Pope Francis, what would you talk with him about?

Recently he also has been showing genuine concern about the environment. Wonderful. A spiritual leader should speak–these are global issues.

How do you find a sense of purpose as you age, especially if you live in a Western society that values youth?

Getting older [is] its own beauty, more experience to share with other people. If you age but then still feel bitter because you are not able to do lots of things you could when you were young, that is silly, unrealistic.

How do you heal a broken heart?

Underlying strong attachment is a clinging, grasping … that underpins hatred, anger, jealousy and so on. If you recognize that a large part of the [reaction] is perception, that could [help]. I always remember, in a dream, if a beautiful woman or something like that–I remember I am a monk. It is very helpful.

And if you’re not a monk?

The desire for sex … always creates some trouble.

–ELIZABETH DIAS

This appears in the July 20, 2015 issue of TIME.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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