Philosophy, action and reflection
After spending some time on the campus and interacting with a class of students from the Central University of Tibetan Studies, I would like to focus on one, rather simple, concept that I’ve learned about: patience. Dr. Tsering, a professor here, kindly shared with us his most sacred beliefs surrounding Buddhist philosophy. ‘Do not commit any sin. Perform perfect virtue. Tame one’s mind.’ This was the stanza that, in his opinion, summarized the teachings of Lord Buddha. The majority of students attending this university are in exile from their native land of Tibet, which was overridden by the Chinese and viscously torn from their grasp. Thus they have sought refuge here in India with the help of the Indian government, and spend various numbers of years studying Tibetan Buddhist philosophy in an attempt to preserve their culture. All of the research departments on campus are doing work related to the restoration or translation of ancient scripts so that they can be circulated around the world and preserved for centuries to come. In order to do these translations, the students read through the old script, in Tibetan or Sanskrit, and translate it into an array of other languages to be viewed by the rest of the world. This requires excessive patience. Today we visited the library that holds these ancient scripts, most of which are printed on handmade paper, and stacked up before being tied like a parcel into colored cloth and labeled. One by one, the students approach these volumes, and page by page, they work away at their translations. Tashi, a CUTS student I had the honor of working with, told me that in pursuing his undergrad, he has six classes a day, six days a week, and spends all of his free time on Sundays working at his assignments. The patience and dedication that these students have to contribute to the preservation of the Tibetan culture and Buddhist texts is remarkable.
A second aspect of Buddhism in which I have seen the act of patience practiced is with karma. As Dr. Tsering defined, karma is all about action. It is the reason that things happen the way they do in this world and it describes why some people endure extreme suffering while others enjoy lives full of freedom and ease. When asked his opinion on the seize of Tibet and how such a terrible thing could happen to people who dedicate their lives to peace, Dr. Tsering attributed this occurrence to karma. With patience, Tibetans believe, they will receive good fortune in return for their suffering, and balance will once again return. To approach an event that was filled with such violence and can illicit incredible anger, the Buddhists calmly accept it as it is, and trust karma to take its turn again. This takes admirable amounts of patience.
Stereotypically, Americans practice the opposite of patience. We rush through our lives with venti to-go coffees in hand and do not hesitate to act out in anger when something unjust occurs. Coming from a culture that does not have practice in methodically seeking the source of anger and suffering, we do not at once have the skills in meditation and mindfulness to approach issues the way that Buddhists do. It has been a once in a lifetime opportunity to come here, to Sarnath India, to hear firsthand from monks who have dedicated their lives to their practice, the fundamentals of interdependence, emotional intelligence, and meditation. Interwoven in all of these Tibetan Buddhist concepts, is a strong will for patience.
Blogpost and photo by Victoria (Torie) Mount
UW Seattle Student
Studying Environmental Engineering