I believe that I have been blessed with a profound life purpose, one I was unaware of until making the lone decision to venture 185 miles beyond the suburbs I was raised in.
In 2008, I volunteered as a summer camp teacher at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB), a monastery located in Ukiah, California. From the moment I walked through the gates, I was immersed in the history, culture, and religion of people from all walks of life. The community warmly welcomed me, the novice, with its trademark selflessness and hospitality.
I went to CTTB wanting a change in my environment and perspective. I left with newfound senses of compassion and clarity. Awakened by a consciousness I wasn’t aware I had, I found myself asking endless questions of why: Why am I thinking like this, why am I saying this, why am I doing this? In my pursuit of knowledge, I was left with more questions than answers. Honestly, I still am not definite about what I am searching for, but I do believe that I am happy chasing after something. The redefinition of the core of my identity and character is the gift that CTTB generously bestowed upon me.
Experiencing life at a Buddhist monastery has coalesced in many self-revelations. I first came to realize this after experiencing firsthand the sacrifices others made to be life-long cultivators of the Buddhist teachings. But, though we are so incredibly different, we are all tied together by an inalienable desire to learn and discover the very essence of humanity and true spirituality. Since then, I have formed an unwavering bond and shared path of learning with people I will not be able to see often. It is unceasing wonder to me that I will be forever connected to a group of individuals I knew for such a short period of time.
Before CTTB, I had never prayed, meditated, or read a Buddhist text in my life. I distinctly remember the discomfort of being in a new and vastly different environment and the inevitable challenges it brought. Yet, upon reflection, I realize that I have absolutely no regrets about the time between entering and exiting the sacred gates of the monastery. The sentient moments of serenity and sincere connection to mind, body, and spirit that I received resonate far beyond my time spent at CTTB and always will.
Looking back, I am struck by one of Confucius’ understandings: When surrounded by people of character, compassion and humility “we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.” For their gift of virtue and the embodiment of an infinite amount of life purpose and understanding, I thank the people of CTTB from the bottom of my heart.