Jamyang sat down beside me on the metal bench in the courtyard.
“What do you think of that?” he asked as we looked over at the five Nepalis taking selfies of themselves on the monastery steps.
He was 21, about the same age as the selfie-takers yet in a world far away from theirs. It was pretty clear what he thought of the photo taking. It did look a little incongruous, these poses in front of a Tibetan monastery, kind of like seeing someone walk in a bikini through downtown office blocks.
The air was getting colder in the late afternoon. Jamyang pulled his maroon robe up over his shoulder, then spoke again.
“Westerners come here, they’re more interested in learning about Buddhism than Nepalis.”
That was an interesting statement to hear. It made me realize how easy it is to over praise the East. The West is good too. We must never denigrate one at the expense of the other. They both are exactly as they should be, in their own way.
“When did you come here?” I asked him.
“I was 9,” he said.
“And what did you think at the time?”
“It was my parents’ decision, so I accepted it.”
He explained how it was often the middle son who was sent to live at a monastery from their villages in remote areas, like Mustang. In his case, he was the eldest son, but the middle child.
“Your mother is your first teacher,” he continued. “Children learn love from their mother. And that is why the mother is everything, not the father, but the mother. She is everything.” He paused. “But be careful too, too much love destroys child.”
“How do you like your life here, in the monastery?” I asked him.
“How I think, if I go outside, is people don’t know what I think, so I like to stay in monastery.”
It was such a different life that he lived. Day after day, waking up for the 6 am service, then studies all day, meditation, and meals at set times with 100 other monks. Owning nothing except maroon coloured clothing, books, a toothbrush and maybe a cell phone. And when you’re young, hardly ever roaming around in the world outside the monastery gates. Yet you could feel what he meant. This was a life created with like-minded people. People whose minds had been trained in a certain way, a very effective way. The people outside these gates thought very differently to him – they could be interested in selfies or success, or any number of things that would hold no interest for the monks. But now that his mind was trained this way, he would never be taking selfies on monastery steps.