"I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult." E. B. White

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mornings in the Monastery

The monastery is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in the world. It is beautiful, calm, peaceful, and everyone has been more warm and welcoming than I could have ever imagined.  Every time I walk through the gate, I feel happy and stress free.


I’m also really happy that the children in the monastery all seem so healthy and well taken care of. They are always clean, well-fed, smiling, well-treated, and well-educated. Considering they are young boys between the ages of 6 and 24 years old, I can’t believe how well behaved they are. They may be monks, but they are still kids. Of course, they have their silly times, but the focus and composure I see in them is unlike any child I have ever encountered. Note to self - if I ever have a rowdy child, send him to the monks for discipline!

The cutest 6-year-old monk you will ever meet
The other thing about these little monks is that they are so cute. I mean really, really cute. Their little faces make me melt. And their sweet dispositions make them that much more adorable. I can’t say enough about them. Fortunately, I took dozens of pictures (these are just a few of them).


Teaching English has actually proven slightly easier than Anna and I expected. We teach three classes a day - beginner, intermediate, and advanced. We have devised ways to engage them and encourage them to write, read, and speak only in English in our class. For instance, we assigned a letter to each child in the intermediate class and had them write a word on the whiteboard beginning with that letter. Once we had about 10 words on the board, we asked them to write a series of sentences incorporating all of the words. They then had to read their sentences aloud. It has been very effective and we’ve been able to modify the exercise depending on the language abilities of each class.


Monks during the puja in the main ceremonial hall
Yesterday was incredibly interesting because we were invited to the monastery, even though classes were canceled. The monks were conducting a puja, or a ceremony. Kunga explained to us that pujas are conducted for various reasons, including as a daily prayer, for celebrations, to pray for the sick, and to pray for the dead. Different pujas last different amounts of time, and this one was to last several hours (we stayed for two).


Hand painted mandala on the exterior wall
The puja room was gorgeous. It was decorated in colorful fabrics and had a giant gold buddha statue. The walls and ceilings are hand-painted in ornate detail, and the monks sit on mats behind small prayer tables. Several of them play bells, a gong-like drum, or instruments resembling horns.


Elaborate decorations
This particular puja was for the recently-deceased father of one of the monks. Kunga told us that Buddhists believe the soul stays with the body or near its home and family for four to seven weeks after death. After that time, the conscience is reborn. Through the puja (lots of chanting, reading, and playing of musical instruments together), they hope to make the transition for the conscience easier and garner good “merits” toward a better rebirth. There are good and bad rebirths - the good being a god, a demi-god, or a human, and the bad being hell, an animal, or a hungry goose...which I’m told is somehow different to an animal. Being a hungry goose seems like a very bad situation, indeed.


I felt so fortunate to be invited to watch this intimate ceremony. It was beautiful to watch and an honor to be trusted to observe.


Today was special because we joined the monks for lunch. They prepared dal bhat, a traditional Nepalese dish consisting of rice, lentils, and often some sort of vegetable. Anna and I sat chatting with Kunga for an hour about the puja we had observed, how he had come to the monastery, different types of Buddhists, and why many of the monks in the monastery came to Nepal from Tibet.


The wonderful Kunga
Kunga is so genuine in the way he speaks, and he really touched me today with something that he said. He told Anna and I that we are no different to the monks. He said the only thing that separates us is that he lives in a monastery, and we live outside. But, he said, monks often work to better the lives of others through their actions and thoughts. In the same way, he praised us for traveling all the way to Nepal to do something for the monks and the orphans in a spirit of service. He told us that a monk who sits in a monastery but does nothing for anyone else is not nearly as good as people like us, who he described as having good souls - good conscience. I was really touched by his sincerity and high opinion of us. I don’t know that we are helping as much as he gives us credit for, but it was a very impactful moment for me all the same.


I love him. He is 8-years-old with the sweetest spirit in the world
He is very shy but was excited to see his picture on my camera
The youngest "beginners" class
Young teen monks
He loves to be silly and participate in class. He's the monk equivalent to a class clown.

Young monks relaxing during a tea break
They treat each other like family and have welcomed us in






3 comments:

  1. Thanks, Jane! And thank you for all of your other comments! You should definitely look into a trip like this - you would love it. I had a general idea of what I was getting myself into, but this trip has turned into so much more. I haven't regretted this for a minute - if anything, every day that I'm here is validation that I made the right choice. Do it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, Jane! And thank you for all of your other comments! You should definitely look into a trip like this - you would love it. I had a general idea of what I was getting myself into, but this trip has turned into so much more. I haven't regretted this for a minute - if anything, every day that I'm here is validation that I made the right choice. Do it!

    ReplyDelete