How did I get to be this woman, sitting cross-legged on a cheap leather couch, sitting across from an orange robed Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, in the “kidnapping capital” of the Philippines, discussing poverty, meditation, and knowledge?
He spoke of knowledge as a gift, one that needs to be used, otherwise, what is the point of the gift? It is meant to be both used and shared. There is not a problem that cannot be solved without the mind, he informed me. Everything in the world, all the troubles, could be solved if only people would use their minds. Because the more knowledge we gain, the more we can clear our minds. An unclear mind comes from ignorance. And ignorance and an unclear mind lead to many problems.
“I have no things – no wife, no children, no land, so I have no worries. But when I have things, I start to worry. Like this card (holding a business card someone had just given him), before, I did not have this, and I did not worry. But now it is mine, and I will go to my room, and think, ‘Did I bring that thing that I just got? Where did I lay it?’ I have a thing, and now I have a worry. But no money, no land, no things – no worries. You, no husband, no children, no land. You are free. Free to travel, to learn, to develop. No worries for you either.”
We shared our life philosophies. His is to learn something new from every person he meets. Mine, very similar, is to learn something new every day. The more we know, from places and people from our travels, the more we can use that knowledge.
When he asked me if I meditate, I told him that I work not through physical meditation, but through internal processing by way of writing. That I write until my head is completely cleared. He told me that as long as I am clearing my mind, I have no worries, I am meditating and it is good.
We compared the teachings of our great leaders, Jesus and Buddha, who both said, in their own ways, to not worry about tomorrow, for today is enough to take care of, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We agreed that if Buddha and Jesus were around right now, they’d be friends, telling people to love peace, not war. He said that he and I are living out the same teachings, the same life to not worry and to learn and to love.
He lauded me as knowing more than him, because of my experiences in traveling. Because I have seen more, I must know mor, was his logic. But I feel that sometimes the knowledge crowds my mind, making it harder for me to take it all in. But I appreciated the sentiment from him, that travel equals knowledge, particularly a kind of knowledge that we did not have before.
He lived for two years in Cincinnati. I found this to be highly amusing, as that is only an hour up the road from where I used to live. There is apparently a Buddhist meditation center there as well. But he also worked with and knew many Catholics, who he also lauded for doing good work among the poor in the city and around the world. “They get much money, but they use much money – and always for the poor. It is very good.” The Catholics offered to give him a scholarship to attend Sullivan University for computer classes, but he turned it down because he was too busy, and offered it instead to someone else. Interestingly enough, Sullivan is where my most-former roommate Nate will be attending culinary school starting in January. I am never amazed at this small world we live and move in.
We continued to speak of many other things: the war situation in Africa and Iraq – children losing their hands to war and petty thefts; the drug problem in Mexico; the immigration situation in America; underage drinking; the economic problems in Asia, particularly in places like the Muslim community we had just seen. And then, it was time for bed.