Comparison of my old and new self

Blog by: Students on the Buddhism and the Great Ganges River Experience: Philosophical Exploration and Social Action in the Sacred lands of India program

Student Name: Dibbya Biswa

This trip has open my eyes and made me re-experienced my days in Nepal. Two days flight without sleep was not part of my “to experience” list for India trip. I was exhausted when we reach the Varanasi airport. My thoughts were why did I even come and I was better at home, sleeping in my big bed. As I stepped out of the airport to the indie atmosphere, I couldn’t breathe.  Although it was raining the air was super hot and the climate was burning hot.  I didn’t think of anything besides I want to go back to Washington. We got in the van that was reserved for us. On our way to Central University of Tibetan Studies, I was looking outside from window. What I saw was not so different from what I have memories of Nepal. The house was similar, land area was similar, small and big shops were similar and even the way they display products on the shops was similar. When we got to the city area the traffic and the way vehicles were running the wait vehicles in Nepal. When I saw those it reminded me of my childhood. I felt like me I am in Nepal walking on the street and seeing this all. It made me feel like I am on my younger age feet. As I saw those kids walking and running near road fearlessly. I was terrified to see kids near vehicles. My hearts were racing see all that. Then I realized that I was like them in Nepali. But I had one question that I just can’t answer: In Nepal, was I fearless like those kids or fearful like I am right now? It’s been 8 days and I still fear walking on the street. In fact, can’t walk with just one friend, I have to have more than one friend walking with me. Rowaida my colleagues ask me if I wanted to go for walk. I told her to bring one more friend to go for walk.She has been to Egypt by herself, so she somehow convinces me to walk with her but eventually, I end up adding Emma. I have been here for a week and I still fear when vehicles go near me, I still get scared when people horn and I still can’t walk on my own on the street. I left half of my life in Nepal and half of my life in the US. Here I am still figuring out who am I?

Photo by: Dibbya Biswa

Finding a Global Friend

Blog by: Students on the Buddhism and the Great Ganges River Experience: Philosophical Exploration and Social Action in the Sacred lands of India program

Student Name: Rebecca Diamond

Photo taken at the Central University of Tibetan Studies. (Right) Sun Tse (left) Rebecca Diamond

Photo credit: Kara Adams
After the mess of my first day in Kolkata combined with the sadness of being away during Owen’s first day of school. Compounded by the pressure and guilt of being away at all as a mother has weighed heavily on me. I cried every interaction we had over the phone. I didn’t know how I would continue in the state of depression I was living in. I didn’t know how I would be at all productive during the program and I just wanted to go home. I felt like I made a mistake coming back to India a second time. We made it to the Central University for Tibetan Studies and I was feeling miserable. The only thing getting me through was video chats and my friend who stayed with me two more days in Kolkata before flying to Varanasi to meet our group. We met our host, Sun Tse, I was very intrigued by him and I wanted to know more about his life and history. I got many chances to play soccer, basketball, and just enjoy getting to know more about him over snacks and classes. One day a few of us stayed after class to talk more. Sun Tse told me about his journey to India. He told me his parents who live in Tibet paid an intermediary to bring one of their children to India to escape the Chinese occupation. He said they initially asked his oldest brother if he wanted to go. His oldest brother said no. They then showed Sun Tse beautiful pictures of India and being of the age of ten he agreed without the understanding that when he went he couldn’t come back. He said the day he left they all cried his family brought him to a house and left him there to be picked up. He ended up finding he wouldn’t leave for two more days so he went home and he said ironically no one cried two days later when he actually left. They had seemed to already have moved on and accepted this fate. He arrived in India and stayed with other intermediaries who took in Tibetan refuges. He attended school eventually making his way to The Central University of Tibetan Studies.. He spoke about the memory with reverence some sadness but I could also sense the Buddhist influence in his conceptualization and internalization of his experience. He has been away from his family for 17 years now! He said now that he is older he thinks his parents in some ways tricked him into going but he also thinks it was the right decision.
We are so close in age that I felt that he could have been me and I could have been him. We were living very different realities on different sides of the world but connected quickly, to me like kindred spirits. We spent more time together talking in person and connecting online via Facebook and Instagram. His story inspired me as well as his acceptance for his situation. This acceptance I believe comes from his belief system, Buddhism. The concepts of impermanence, suffering, and karma contribute to his ability to manage the suffering of loss. The day we left The Central University for Tibetan Studies we all piled into the van. We were waving goodbye and Sun Tse came to the window to offer me his mantra beads that he had had a conversation with me about a previous day. I was so moved and immediately put them on. His story has helped me to not only cope with being away but be able to embrace the opportunity of being here and when I put on the beads or notice them during the day it reminds of the universal experience of suffering as well as our ability to transcend its negative pull into depression.