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“Where are you from?”
How many times this question has been heard and will be asked again and again, by total strangers or new friends. How many times has it taken long seconds to answer. And how many times the reply was not satisfactory.
Sincerely, I don’t know where I am from. This question has always caused me a dilemma because it creates a fixed image and idea in people’s minds that do not reflect at all where I am from, and even less who I am. It is like lying. Born here, grew up there, parents from such and such place; studied there and over there; the mind wandering in this place and the heart in that one. This “I” has been travelling a lot, pretending to discover the world, while it has actually been looking for its own world. Looking for a place “I” could finally call ‘home’, where “I” could feel safe enough to stay. Looking for a place… somewhere outside of me.
Here at the Shedra, I have found something very precious while studying Buddhism: the map that will bring me home. The path goes around many places indeed, but everywhere except around the world. The ways that are showed all converge to the same spot. They are traced to lead you (back) home. The map shows you that home is within you.
In Tibetan, the term used to refer to a Buddhist includes the root word nang, meaning ‘inside’. A Buddhist is thus a nang pa, an ‘insider’. This word has various meanings and can be explained in many ways, but I like to understand it as “the one that goes (back) inside”, inside oneself, where one’s true nature lies. The interesting part is that the root word nang is also used for ‘’house” or “home”. Going home is going inside. And if one can’t go back to any physical place, one can be sure to find a permanent home and refuge within. The Buddha is my home, the Dharma is my home, the Sangha is my home. But eventually, all three are in my mind.
Meditation has been the key to enter this precious shelter and I feel at home the most while practicing mindfulness. Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote in an article that “even if you have the feeling that you don’t belong to any land, to any country, to any geographical spot, to any cultural heritage or to any particular ethnic group, you have a true home. Now, inside of your own body, you can come home. It is in the here and now, it is not limited by time, space, nationality, or race. Your true home is not an abstract idea, it is something you can touch and live in every moment. It is not in the past, it is not in the future. Life is available only in the here and now and it is our true home. ”
Being present, watching our thoughts, getting to know our ‘selves’ in an unmistaken way. This is what will lead us to know who we are and where we are really from: a no-self from this no-land called emptiness.