The most obvious change is my relationship to Philosophy. I’m back to my studies at the University of Arizona now, and I can really feel a change. One of my issues with my philosophy studies is its Western focus. This was one of the reasons studying Buddhism in Nepal was so appealing to me.
Now that I have some basic understanding of Buddhism, I relate to my class material very differently. It’s hard to describe, but I feel like Buddhists have a lot of satisfying answers to many of the problems that Western Philosophers struggle with. I don’t feel justified in simply dismissing the trials and tribulations of these great thinkers, but I often find myself wondering what their responses would be if they ever found the time to learn a little Eastern Philosophy. I’ve tried discussing this with at least one professor since my return, and I was saddened to realize just how little about Buddhist philosophy he knew. I shouldn’t be surprised, but it just seems like such a waste to never investigate all the potential answers to difficult questions. Buddhism has a lot of solid answers, and for people who have dedicated themselves to the study of knowledge and wisdom, it seems terribly disturbing that they should know so little.
Another change is how I relate to Indian culture. Although I didn’t spend time in India, I learned a lot about the place. Nepalese culture is different from Indian culture, but here in Arizona, I get much more exposure to India than Nepal. At times I feel like I have joined some exclusive club. It’s as though I am one of the few people to have experienced that way of life first hand. I just connect with it differently, and it feels pretty awesome.
I still keep in touch with some of my friends from IBA. I talk to a few of the monks regularly. It is quite beneficial for me because they not only help me stay connected to this summer’s amazing adventure, but they help guide me in my understanding of Buddhist Philosophy. Now that I realize just how little about Buddhism my peers know, I have to be very careful to explain clearly what I know of it. My Monk friends help me when I start to confuse myself. Plus, I still enjoy helping them with their English skills :)
Now that my apartment is decorated with paper lanterns and prayer flags, I feel as though something profound has changed in my heart. My adventure this summer has probably changed me in ways I have yet to understand, but I think it is all for the better. My current plan is to return to IBA next summer for one month and then travel to India for another month. I haven’t started to pull together the resources I need for that journey, but I can feel my next adventure calling.