Sitting across my screen against a wall the brightest shade of blue, a gold-glazed idol of Buddha in a meditative state in the backdrop, Lama Aria Drolma is radiant. I have a feeling the morning sun shining through the shrine room in the Palpung Thubten Choling Monastery has little to do with it. Situated in upstate New York, she made this space her home, and the 20-odd nuns and monks that reside here her family, thirteen years ago, when she was ordained a lama (a Tibetan Buddhist spiritual teacher). “I love the simplicity of my life here. I don’t have to impress anyone or apologise for who I am. I enjoy my spiritual practice, it gives me a positive state of mind, and when I’m there, I have the ability to help others, be there for them, empower them. I enjoy being peaceful,” she says to me at the beginning of our three-hour-long chat, the end of which had me feeling a lot less anxious and a little more peaceful.
She begins her day at 6 am, invoking blessings by chanting aspirational prayers, followed by breakfast and daily chores. What chores, I ask with intrigue. “We are an organisation, and as a committee, we plan auspicious events and teachings for our followers. I respond to emails, do the usual office work and manage the bookstore. We follow a sattvic diet and take turns to cook,” she tells me. During their evening prayers, the Buddhist nuns call upon the deities to help them stay within their practice when they feel like giving up and protect them on this challenging path. For Das, this path—of impermanence, spreading compassion, love and kindness, and meditation—opened up after years of holding on.
AN EPIPHANY OF IDEAS
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