Sentimental idealism was the current regime of my youthful mind. The world seemed cruel to me but the hope of dyeing it in pink was my reliable ally. I dreamed of contributing to the peace and healing of the world. And among idealistic ideation I looked at pictures of African children online and my eyes became salted. I was diving among NGO sites, with the possibility of reaching out to the African people. Why Africa? Certain karmic disposition, but of occult origin.
When I finished my university degree in psychology, I went to travel countries farthest east. In New Zealand I found Buddhism as the redemptive path of my insatiable spiritual thirst. In India and Nepal I met my teachers.
After traveling and finding my home in the Buddha Dharma, I returned to my native land of Argentina but decided to leave (almost) everything in a leap into the abyss holding hands with the Dharma. An immaterial twist led me to return to Kopan Monastery, the space incubator of my refuge in the Three Jewels.
And so, two years ago, I relied on the generosity of an Egyptian stranger who found me in Couchsurfing (a certain karmic connection, of occult origin) and his offering of a plane ticket to reach destination. With a change in my pocket, the bewilderment of others' eyes and the confidence upright, I departed with the foreign gift of Zimo, a kindhearted brother in my Path.
At an intermediate airport in the Middle East, I was waiting for my flight to Kathmandu huddled in a seat. It was then that Natasha, a braided ukrainian girl, came up to me with her woven blanket open: "Are you cold? I saw you from a distance in that position and I thought you needed a coat." My heart jubilant at the connection with the kindness of beings, made me smile with the whole body that settled in the opposite position, with open shoulders and upward face: ready for the coming reciprocity. We started talking right away. "Where did you come from, Natasha?" "From volunteering in Africa." (Timeless glow in my eyes); "SHOW ME EVERYTHING!"
The photos of white smiles in her laptop and my boiling in the chest continued for a while, until my flight was announced. And then she asked me, "Melisa, before you leave, can I do anything for you?" Then Natasha took my hands in hers, closed her eyes and began to pray to Jesus Christ for me. Moved by love, I did the same for her invoking the Buddhas.
So ended my brief and unique encounter with the European braided hair that was the heart of an important announcement:
"Africa is closer"
Oh ... "And you're on the right track."
Feeling protected by an invisible cloak of love and my heart of courage, I flew to Nepal and in Kopan Monastery I plunged into an ocean of defiant truths for my self-grasping. Three months of trying to make of my mind a peaceful deer, of gentleness kindness and compassion, of maternal sweetness and volcanic force.
But the work was just beginning. Going back to the West after the LAM RIM (the Gradual Path to Enlightenment) retreat was not an option to realize my vision of spiritual flourishing and to contribute to the peace of all in the long run. So I decided to go to work as a volunteer to Root Institute for Wisdom and Culture, another Buddhist Center of the Foundation for Preservation of Mahayana Buddhism (FPMT) of my teacher Lama Zopa Rinpoche. I started this new destination with the help of someone inside the Monastery sending e-mails to Root Institute for me (I did not have Internet access during the retreat), but we could not get an answer.
The end date of the retreat was approaching, and my mind vulnerable to its afflictions was daily debated between anxiety and fear and an unfathomable Trust in the guidance of my Masters, and that the Path would unfold in a way so that I could respond to my inner Calling. Weeks of refuge in prayer and in my intuition -that although plausible to be erroneous - tends to guide me in the most conducive directions for my inner development (although of course, not always the easiest to approach!
One day, my friend Pablo who had completed his Introduction to Buddhism retreat in Kopan, lent me his phone number to try to call Root Institute myself. Tone after tone, no answer. With the phone still in my right ear, I looked up to find an omen made matter in front of me: A van with the inscription "Root Institute for Wisdom and Culture". With Pablo we could not leave the state of Awe (of that with capital letter). I immediately approached a monk near the car, and indeed, he and the director of the Center that I tried so hard to reach, had come up near themselves from Bodhgaya! That same afternoon I spoke with Director Venerable Paldron and she accepted me as Root's volunteer to work as a meditation leader. The challenge presented itself as something titanic and unabashed for my beginner mind, but relying on my Courage as a wise counselor, and once again, in the intangible Guide (oniric and intuitive) of my teachers, I said YES.
A friend offered me the tickets to get there. Another friend offered me the accommodation until the date of departure.
From that point on, synchronicity was my ally in showing me that the steps were being correctly taken, even in times of greatest dubitation, manifesting in the goodness of countless beings that crossed my Path to support my wild spiritual stubbornness, swimming against the current of the mandates of the system. The eyes of others from the distance showed suspicion, distrust and concern.
There was fear of being exiled.
There was fear of rejection.
There was fear of indigence.
There was fear of madness.
But there was always, also, faith. Faith in that the happiness I felt each morning and the rejoicing when going to sleep for being devoting my days to serving the Dharma -the Path I chose- and my teachers, could not be the product of a maniac attack. Faith that the sense of accomplishment of working only for the benefit of others could not be a messianic delusion.
Faith that there was some sanity in the delivery.
And whenever the doubt appeared, there was also a being with a white envelope in his hands appearing, offering me help to take a step further. And the tears were not only of gratitude, but of commitment: to bet on another day, and another and another, to that which I felt gave a greater Purpose to my life: beyond professional success, satisfaction of relationships, of material enrichment. Beyond this ephemeral life. And above it all, beyond myself.
Six months passed and as the scorching summer neared Bodhgaya, I felt it was time to move, to go to a place where I could continue studying. But before I left Root Institute, I wanted to do the Tara retreat, facilitated by Jimi Neil. However, the Spiritual Coordinator Program, Venerable Khadro (now a great friend of the Path), asked me instead to be the teacher's assistant leading the morning meditations during the retreat. Disappointed for not being able to get what I wanted, but trusting that sometimes this is the best that can happen, I got prepared to serve with joy once again.
And there, among the students, was Bernhard Weimer: A German diplomat who approached the office asking for me and said, "I want to invite you to come to Africa to lead a meditation course". Yes, the Awe took my breath away again, and one more time with boldness guiding the movement of the tongue I said Yes!
The time to serve in Africa had come in the most unexpected way and one akin to my personality of this life. Again, I nodded with all my Being to the possibility of Confidence in my Refuge in the Three Jewels - Buddha, Dharma and Sangha - as the only safe haven in an internal and external world of uncertainty, dissatisfaction and hesitation. Again I trusted my inner calling. Again I trusted myself.
Bernhard told me about the problems of war, economic instability and poverty and inner uneasiness of the Mozambican people. Tools for peace are an urgency, not only in Africa, but throughout the world: this is an irrefutable truth. After an inspiring dinner in which we put our intention of service on paper, we went together to the Mahabodhi Temple, where the tree under which Shakyamuni Buddha got enlightened more than 2500 years ago, and we offered our intentions to Tara along with exquisite Japanese incense that Bernhard brought.
Shortly afterwards, with the money collected from the students' offerings, I left one of the happiest times of my life living in Bodhgaya, to venture to the next: my life of study of philosophy and Tibetan language in Dharamsala, the home of my Root teacher, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Already at the foot of the Himalayas, and of my Master, I went one morning to the Temple where it was announced that His Holiness would be directing a puja (a typical prayer and offering ceremony). Standing at the distance in front of a pillar from which I could straightly look at him, I prayed for an hour asking for guidance for this project of the course in Africa. I asked him to please advise me on whether He wanted me to serve from a Buddhist or secular perspective. And one of the prayers that I repeated insistently was "My Lord, please, hold my hands, look me in the eyes and advise me for my life."
At the end of the puja, I made a kora (circumbalation) and lined up waiting to greet Him, in a row, like everyone else present. A few steps away my friend Tommy was standing with another unknown gentleman, who called me to line up with them. This American man (at that time a stranger, now Todd, another great friend of the Path), asked us to tell him our names three times each. With my kata (white silk masquerade traditionally offered to teachers in Tibetan culture) in hand and insistent with my prayer, I waited for His Holiness beside them. Surprisingly, when His Holiness passed in front of us, He stopped and greeted Todd affectionately. And he, kindly, introduced us to His Holiness by telling Him our names. His Holiness, then, took a hand of each one of us, looked into our eyes and told us "You must propagate human values nd kindheartedness in the world in a secular way with the support of science and common sense, and the disadvantages of anger" (and He made a funny face of anger between laughter). He was standing in front of us taking our hands in a few moments that, for me, meant an eternity of joy and devotion.
AND THEN ALL THE FEAR OF INSANITY EVAPORATED IN THE MEANING OF UNCONFIGIBLE CLARITY OF WHICH THE TEACHER'S BLESSING IS imbibed.
Following this extraordinary event, I happily wrote to Bernhard telling him what had happened and he agreed with the idea of me designing a course from a secular perspective, giving tools to develop universal values nd to improve people's quality of life and sense of purpose. A space of offering of tools to develop inner peace, that works like catalyst of peace in the whole world.
Thus, with the tutoring of my teachers Geshe Ma Kelsang Wangmo and Bikshuni Thubten Chödrön and the advice of other teachers, for a year I embarked on a process of listening to teachings and research on different neuroscientific theories of well-being and meditation. Being passionate about understanding the human mind and having studied Psychology, this work has been very gratifying, but involving the great responsibility to do it in the most lucid and skillful way possible, to be of benefit to the beings to whom I would address; and also because it involved following -in the best possible way according to my ability- the instructions of my guru.
So, a year later, my feet kissed the long-wanted African land for the first time. In this way I arrived in Mozambique and facilitated a six-day course in Vilankulo, in the presence of wonderful human beings who opened up to the possibility of taking responsibility for their minds as creators of their happiness and their misery; to embark on the process of developing internal tools with which to face the challenges of human existence and compassionately accompany those of others. This was, this is, the passionate dedication to what gives Meaning to my Life.
I share on this occasion briefly the plot of decisions and alignments of my Path with the intention that it serves as inspiration for others. For questions to be asked. To invite the challenge. To instil Courage. So that it infuses Trust.
Every human being has a Purpose beyond the mandates of the system.
Beyond the tight habit of seeking satisfaction in the volatile.
Beyond afflictive conditioning.
Beyond his limiting beliefs of insignificance.
It is my desire that each being finds it and with courage and generosity, makes it available for the enrichment and well-being of all. Because we are all teachers and companions of each other, in the existential journey of trying to develop our Potential to its fullest extent.
Thank you to all those who collaborated with your kindness, trust and generosity, so that this dream could begin to be realized. In particular, thanks to the Dharma, which offers all sentient beings the Path to lasting happiness, and thank you to the precious Gurus (teachers) who teach it, to whom I owe the development of each of my good qualities.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY!
Soon more information about the course in Mozambique, the experience of the participants and the offering of upcoming courses in English and Spanish.