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Sun 21 Sep 2014

Building at Kopan Monastery

Building at Kopan Monastery

Today I relaxed at the monastery. I read in a book that I brought along on my tablet computer, called How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I also went to the monastery library and read in another book by the Dalai Lama (I can’t recall the name of the book). Then I took a walk outside the monastery, and this was good exercise. Since the monastery is on a hill, the only direction you can go is downhill, which means you have to come back up the hill on the return journey.

I enjoyed taking my meals in community with the other visitors. It seemed most of the others were not interested in conversation, but I continued to chat with my new Mexican friend, Paola. It turned out that we had a few things in common, in addition to being from North America and speaking Spanish.

Not surprisingly, we both liked to travel and were interested in exploring Buddhist spirituality. Paola was a pediatrician working in a community health center, with more or less the same type of population I worked with in the South Bronx. We shared stories about the patients we served, and the stories were very similar except for the geographic location of the patients and families. Somewhat unusually, we both had come into contact with the Baha’i communities in our respective home towns. She was very close to her family, primarily her parents, sister, and seven year old daughter.

Other than Paola, I also chatted with a woman in her 50’s named Sarah. She had been living in Perth, Australia for many years, but was originally from Iran and had spent some years in California. She struck me as a very compassionate person who was truly interested in developing her Buddhist practice, and who had also been through a lot of trauma and tragedy.

Sarah recounted her story of growing up in a Muslim family and being forced to marry at a young age. Then, her husband divorced her, and she lamented that she neither had a say in whether or whom to marry, nor when and how she was divorced. I gathered that she came from an upper middle class family who lost all of their resources in the revolution and the war between her country and Iraq. She spoke many times of how much she missed her country and her culture, but also made it clear that she was willing to give it all up, and did leave her country voluntarily, in order to have freedom as a human being and more specifically as a woman in society. She became a practicing Christian at some point before turning to Buddhism over ten years ago. She spoke of her love for her cat, whom she was eager to see when she returned home to Perth, and her 29 year old daughter who was currently caring for the cat.

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