DRZC member and Lay Disciple Michael Gyoshi Kaplan has been in Nepal and other part of Asia on an extended trip as he begins his retirement from a career in engineering. He recently sent this email to his teacher, Kyogen, and to Getsushin Brox, with whom he works in the prison program. It is published here with permission.
Hi Getsushin, hi Kyogen,
I’m about halfway through my six week stay in Nepal, and it’s been a fascinating time. Pretty much nothing has turned out as I expected. The mantra, don’t expect anything, has been always present and very useful. My three weeks of English teaching turned into one week due to the volunteer organizer not remembering the timing of the main Nepalese festival, Dasain. So teaching morphed into Tamang language lessons — which was actually a front for several days of Tibetan Buddhist chanting with three Lama friends in my adopted mountain village, Gatlang. (They did the chanting, and I was the honored guest meditator.) My inflatable zafu was a great aid in those several days of retreat, to say nothing of its amusement value to the lamas.
Also spaced into my first 3 weeks was a one week trek into a high Himalayan valley. Mountains, roaring rivers, and hairy yak views were spectacular when the clouds parted. The hiking was often strenuous. There were times, walking down long very steep and slippery paths, that I couldn’t believe we’d walked up such difficult terrain several days earlier.
Currently I’m in Boudhanath, the site of the great stupa and along with Daramsala, the second pole of exiled Tibetan Buddhism. This morning I walked up to the Kopan monastery, a beautiful place with a grand meditation hall, lovely gardens, and an active western retreat center, on a hill high above Boudha. A 10 day intro retreat had just ended, so the meditation and dharma talk I expected to hear didn’t happen. But after 3 weeks of ever-looser attachment to expectations, this caused barely a ripple in my mind.
Speaking of mind, this has been an interesting time for me regarding seeing who I am now that I’ve been away from home, family, Sanghas, and work for some time. Even though living in Nepal is sometimes spectacularly primitive, I’m finding that I’m really not missing anything. And I’m growing fairly comfortable with not feeling like I have some critical agenda to achieve. I’m curious to see how this all evolves.
After a few more days in Boudha and some nearby towns, I’ll probably head out to the Annapurna region and likely do some more trekking there. Then on to Thailand for a month. By the way, in spite of my statement that I’m not missing anything, I am aware of very warm feelings towards both of you, the OSP and Dharma Rain sanghas, my family. That doesn’t feel inconsistent with not missing.
Getsushin, if you think the guys in the OSP group would enjoy hearing this, feel free to share it with them.