“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
During our last homestay with a family in Zanskar I was able to question a nun, the daughter of the couple I was staying with, who was visiting her family for a few weeks. Though she now lives in Dharamsala, and has for over a decade, she was born in a small village in the Zanskar valley. She told me that when she was ten years old she became a nun and lived for six years at a nunnery an hour or two away from her house. I asked her how, at such a young age, did she decide to become a nun, and here was her answer which explains why many children in the region “choose” this lifestyle.
She told me it wasn’t her choice but her family’s choice. Her parents had “too many children,” eight in total, and were unable to provide for them all. That’s why, along with her younger sister and one brother, they were all sent off to nunneries and monasteries for a better life. By living in these holy places they are given a place to sleep, food, and some type of allowance. Her parents realized that by placing her in a nunnery she would also receive an education and grow up in an environment with a strong moral conduct. Seeing this well educated women arrive with her western backpack full of lotions, notebooks, and a smart phone into her native village which has nothing, I can see why her parents chose this lifestyle for her.
Now imagine that instead of churches in the western world spending millions of dollars on fancy buildings and paid employes, they created their own sort of living environment for those who wanted to dedicate their life to studying and living life from the writings like the nuns and monks here. I don’t mean preaching or going out to convert people, I mean living their own life as an example of peace, love, and dedication to a higher being. Even if at eighteen many of them would leave (as many do here) for college and end up becoming a doctor, scientist, or teacher instead of a “monk,” imagine the moral compasses these young adults would have been able to develop by being brought up in such a community.