Integrating the earthquake experience
|Picture shows me camping at RYI yard during earthquake|
It’s now over six weeks that the massive earthquake hit Nepal. The changes that began through it are still in the works and their ends are not to be seen, yet. Houses, monasteries, temples…in fact the main class rooms and offices of RYI needed to move and are on the way to being rebuilt.
One might wonder, what is it like to be in a massive earthquake like that? While individual experiences differ, one can summarize this experience as being very un-grounding. All that was familiar and considered stable before the earthquake, now seems unreliable. A massive earthquake that changes ones lives so drastically, does indeed give much insight into impermanence, one’s mortality and the preciousness and fleeting nature of this moment of our life.
Although impermanence is generally considered frightening and a topic most likely avoided, in Buddhist studies this topic is not only discussed, but its contemplation highly encouraged. And in fact, as this earthquake showed me, holding the truth of impermanence close to my heart, proved a very potent contemplation that opened me to the love and compassion that we are. This seemed true for others surviving the earthquake as well. The care for each other, the wish that anybody around us is safe and well, arose naturally by going through the dangers of the earthquake.
In addition, through the help of the teachings I received in my study at RYI, I felt I had a context from which I was able to meet the changes around me and it helped me to open to insightful and new perspectives. In fact, it seems there is nothing closer to my experience amidst an un-grounded life than the teachings of the Buddha. The reality that throughout our life we circle around our wish to be free of unease, and the inspiring proposition of the Buddha that there is indeed freedom from this unease, seem to hit the mark of everything I was ever yearning for.
The teachings on emptiness, on the nature of mind and on the three marks of existence proved further important guide posts to be with my own fears, my insecurities and moments of despair when the pain of being in the midst of a natural disaster became like hot flames of unease.
Being in community with others was further an important learning throughout the time after the earthquake that taught me to open and apply the Buddhas teaching. I still remember being at the monastery and seeing the love, ease and generosity that the monks were showering to all those seeking shelter and support there. Or the community of students and RYI staff that continuously reached out to each other, making sure everyone would find what they needed.
In this way, the experience of the earthquake became a source of inspiration for understanding of the Buddhist teachings as well as a basis for re-entering my relationships with so much more care and love. Thank you, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche and RYI beyond measure for your support and guidance to make this possible!
~ Shoho from Germany