When I decided to study Buddhism at RYI, I had three main reasons to do so: first, I wanted to make the Dharma a bigger part of my life, and as the lazy person that I am, forcing myself to spend every day reading and learning about it for about 4 years seems like the right ting to do. Second, I was convinced that Buddhism was the only thing that I would not lose interest in after studying it for a couple of years. And finally, I have just always really been in love with Nepal after my first visit in 2007, so living here seemed like a pretty natural thing to do. Now, after more than a year of studying here, I think it is time to check my reasons again and see in how far they still matter.
Prayerflags reflect in a little pond – seen on a hike to Nagi Gompa
1. Has the Dharma become a bigger part of my life?
Definitely. Being surrounded by it 24/7 I would really have to make an effort to not be influenced by it at all. However, I did observe a little shift in the way that I view the Dharma and the way that it influences me. After the first couple of months here in which I learned about the history of Buddhism, the scholarly perspective on it and the huge influence of culture on it, I was quite confused about how much I believe to be true just because it comes with the “whole package” of Tibetan Buddhism and how much I know to be true from experience. However, this led me to a process of reflection on faith, experience and external influences which I find a very healthy thing to happen.
2. Has my interest in Buddhism decreased yet?
Definitely not. The more I learn, the more I realize what a big variety of Buddhisms there is. It is almost impossible to speak of “the Buddhism” as one thing. Also, it became clear to me how many misconceptions and romanticizations of Buddhism we have in the west. I feel like I am still at the beginning of the journey of understanding Buddhism as a whole. And since it is a thing that is so applicable to my own mind and it’s possible to just experiment with ideas about the mind in everydady life, I believe that my interest will stay with me for a while.
3. Do I still enjoy living in Nepal?
On most of the days, my answer would be yes. And on the other days, I wouldn’t be able to answer because of general overwhelmedness. Living in Nepal taught me a lot about flexibility and warm welcomes, about the coexistence of cultures and about the necessity of certain things. And of course it taught me that German punctuality is not a thing in other places of the world. But ever so often, when in the morning I walk in the streets of Boudha, buzzing with activity, old Tibetan Amas turning their prayer wheels and little big-eyed children in school uniforms, I feel the sun on my face and a very strong conviction rises in my heart: I am here – at the right time, at the right place, doing the right thing.
~ Maitri Berners from Germany