I recently came back from Pema Ts’al Sakya Monastic Institute near Pokhara in Nepal where I volunteered as a teacher for a couple of weeks. The monastery is set among the beautiful and mysterious Himalayas. Waking up everyday to the sound of the gong and with perfect views on the Annapurna range was a delight for the eyes and soul.
Pema Ts’al is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery home to 85 monk students wearing the traditional burgundy dress.
Throughout my travel in South East Asia, I came across many monks and, although I wasn’t the type of rudely intruding tourist who gets up to their faces to take photos of them, I was still looking at them with curiosity, amazement and puzzlement. Unconsciously, I was putting all these unique individuals wearing the same attire in the same basket.
It is so easy to ‘categorise’ people according to their skin colour, profession, religion, what they wear… For example, if you think of a car salesperson, what comes to mind? A loud, extroverted and pushy person who will tell you what you want to hear to close their sale, right?
My time at Pema Ts’al has opened my eyes and mind. I started seeing the 85 monks not as a big splash of burgundy-dressed boys, but as unique and beautiful individuals with their own personality, stories, challenges, talents, feelings, thoughts and dreams.
Leaving a beautiful place can be disappointing… Leaving beautiful people is very challenging…
I will keep fond memories of the amazing monks, staff and volunteers at Pema Ts’al. I hope to see you again!
* If you would like to sponsor a monk, head to the Pema Ts’al website.