Vacation Journal Entry: Activity

So, I actually had a little bit of a hard time picking something insightful to talk about activity. I did a lot of trekking and hiking, so at first, when writing this, I almost fell in the “overcoming adversity, pushing your limits” trap of generic journal entry writing. So I’m approaching a different angle to this topic.

So I did a hike called the Tiger’s Nest. To visualise what it is, imagine a mountain. A really big mountain. Now look near the top, but not like at the peak… like on the side, imagine an entire Buddhist Temple. That is the Tiger’s Nest.

Now, arduous hiking aside, the real experience began once we got there. Now, I learned a LOT about Buddhism in this trip, more than I already did before. The fascinating thing about Buddhism is that it’s not really a religion, and therefore it is not set in stone. Our guide, Jamyang, told us that Buddhism is really about the eye of the Beholder. It is up to personal interpretation, and even added the shocking (especially when compared to other religions) fact that the teachings of Buddha can in fact be questioned if they don’t make sense to you.

Now, to connect this to the hike: I could’ve just as well googled the story, or even just gone to a temple in the city by car to hear it… It would most definitely not have the same impact. Hiking for 4 hours to the top of a mountain, to go where Buddha meditated, and adquire all this knowledge created a sort of spiritual connection in a way. I felt like I earned this information, and that since I worked so hard for it, I should apply the teachings to myself.

Amongst the many teachings of Buddha, there were a few that stuck with me. There was one story however, that I really related to, and will undoubtedly help me with my personal struggles. Greatly simplifying, this story tells the tale of a man who was born son to a rich businessman. The father, however, died shortly after his son’s birth, leaving behind a huge fortune. Since there were no contracts or lawyers in ancient times, his uncles and cousins took all of the money, leaving him penniless. After a life of poverty, once he turned 16, his mother sent him to learn black magic, in order to get revenge. Learning the dark arts, he then cursed the wedding of one of his cousins, and in the day of, an earthquake happened, killing 36 people.

The man, devastated, chose to learn the ways of Buddhism to repent. He found a scholar who translated scriptures from Indian to Tibetan, and therefore knew all of the teachings well. The man confessed to the scholar, and asked to be taught. The scholar, obviously shocked by the man’s actions, imposed a condition: “You have to build me a temple”. Thinking this was an easy task, the man built the temple in 6 months. However, the scholar told him the temple was not to his liking, and that it was to be destroyed and redone somewhere else. This process repeated itself many times, with the temples becoming more and more complex. (Note, the remains of these are actually in Tibet to this day, and we got to see some of them). After building a nine story temple (still exists in Tibet), he began learning. After many years of learning and many more of meditating, the man became a Buddhist master. One day, another master became jealous, and told a poor woman that he would give her a large gemstone if she made him drink some poisoned milk. She came to the man and offered the milk, and he responded: “I know of the Poison. If the man actually gives you the gemstone, then return, and I will drink this milk”. After receiving the stone, she returned to the man, but he had already drank the milk. He left a note: “You did not kill me, as it was already my time to go”.

Now to the part that matters: This man was actually the only Buddha (there are thousands, Buddha being a term to describe those who reached awakening) who achieved this position in one single lifetime. Other Buddhas gather the required experiences and knowledge throughout multiple reincarnations. The man who lived a life much worse than many others, and committed many wrongdoings, reached awakening through sheer willpower and conviction. This story’s main takeaway, for me, is that regardless of one’s past, if they commit to acting differently, and never wane from that path, change is indeed possible, as hard as it may seem. As someone who’s gone through multiple different personalities and takes on life, never being able to accept who I was, hearing a story like this legitimately made me feel safe in my desire to be someone I can be proud of being, leading my life in a way where I’ll be satisfied when my time to come arrives.

So in a way, what was, in the eyes of someone else, just a hike to get to a beautiful view, for me was a quest. A trial that led me to some self discovery and a big change in how I see life, and how i’ll lead it moving forward.

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