At the beginning of April, I took a ten-day Intro to Buddhism/Meditation Course at Kopan Monastery (near Kathmandu), and this is what I learned:
Fiction withdrawal is painful — Ignore the voice inside your head that says “Just one short story. Nobody has to know.”
If you can only read Dharma books, the best escape is to go to the monastery bookstore and read Pema Chodron’s, “The Wisdom of No Escape.”
It’s okay to believe in reincarnation when you live at a gompa (i.e., a Tibetan Buddhist monastery), but when you return to the West, guard this secret with your life, this life.
The Tibetan word “gom” means to become familiar with; to mediate is to become familiar with your mind.
When most worldly pleasures are taken away, tea can turn into a vice.
Excessive body hair is a death trap for insects.
There may be no such thing as a dumb question, but there sure are unhelpful ones, like “Let’s say I go fishing, but I don’t kill any worms for bait, and the fish I catch is for a beggar, so my motivation is right, but the beggar will probably sell the fish to buy alcohol… Will this cause me to have good karma or bad karma?”
When a herd of goats circumambulate the stupa, they sure do leave a mess on the ground.
You can wash vegetables in cow pee-pee because it’s so clean, and cow dung is more useful than human ka-ka.
It is funny every time a nun says ka-ka and pee-pee. And oddly enough, nuns say this often.
Philosophy and religion are interesting to talk about, but practice is what matters.
If you take a vow not to kill, you may inherently be taking a vow to save.
In a group of 105 Westerners new to Buddhism, allot them only 5 questions about reincarnation. Maybe then, they’ll use them wisely.
They may wear robes, but monklets are naughty little boys. (Which is why they need naps).
The only antidote to the effects of eating too much white bread is to drink too much nescafe.
If you develop a crush on a girl in your afternoon discussion group, it will be hard to concentrate in afternoon meditation.
A prostration is a bow, not to an image, idol, or a person, but to the wisdom it holds.
Regret and guilt are not the same thing. The former inspires change; the latter is useless self-flagellation.
It’s a relief to keep silence for two out of three meals a day.
Rescuing an ant, lady bug, or tiny insect from your body hair is extremely gratifying and very powerful.
You may start to hear a rallying cry in your head before you eat, or practice yoga, or meditate: “Do it for all sentient beings!”
Life is precious.
You may think that spending ten days in a monastery is an escape from reality, but deep down you know it’s bringing you a millimeter closer to reality.