Back to
Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

Oh, To Be a Baby Monk

Buddhism is a religion, put simply. Beyond the fact that Buddhism is a religion, however, it can be healing, and a healer. Buddhism is the concept of putting others before oneself, and the idea that everyone is one sentient being. Helping others is supposedly a way to stop suffering, as it forces us to spread kindness. It also encourages us to purify our minds, in order to free our minds of negativity, in order to act with good karmic intention.

Sitting in classes with Kempo Lama is a process of understanding holistically. One could label any education similarly, however I would argue that this is a process that requires deeper thinking than I have experienced. We wake up to the sounds of beeping watch alarms at 5:30 AM every morning, in an attempt to make it to the Puja Hall before the echoings and boomings of percussions and horns bellow the beginning of an hour-long prayer time.

Sitting on the edge of the room, I cross my eyes from corner to corner, catching two young monks secretly giggling with one another, punching the back of another sitting adjacent in an effort to adjust their spine. It is vaguely easy enough to compare how different my life is from this group of boys, but to find the similarities has been a challenging thought prcoess for me. Having been raised Agnostic, with the annual Christmas eve visit to the Episcopal church near my house, the only religious aspect one could find about me is my wider knowledge of Christmas carols than the average non-religious person. The idea of a God existing, at this point in my life, seems highly unlikely. One of parts of the Buddhist religion that has drawn me the most, is the fact that the Buddha was once a real person, with radical ideas, which could change humankind. And, although one of the only ways to learn about this religion is via being preached to about how to live your life, the kempo lama informed us the other day about how the Buddha wants his practitioners to question his ideas–especially as the world progresses. What an idea; a leader who wants their ideas to be questioned regularly!

As I lean in as both a learner and a spectator of Buddhism this past week, I have been left questioning its real beauty. As I have observed the young monks during meal times, there is no question that they are poised, selfless humans. Eight ten year old boys picking up after, and serving one another, carrying such a responsibility for the rest of the world, are acts I’ve never seen outside of this monastery. Because so many of these boys practice in a monastery soley because their parents sent them there, one might think that hours of puja and meditation every day would equate to restlessness at this age. I have a deep curiosity for the lives of the young monks, outside of the settings I have observed them in. This curiosity stems from how it affects the way they think about the world; specifically whether they are able to truly apply the ideas of Buddhism into their lives. After each teaching with kempo lama, my curiosity deepened about whether my ways of thinking would be so different, had I introtuced this religion into my life at a younger age, before I was able to understand the true complications of this world.