Dharamsala: ISP and Education
We have been in Dharamsala for almost two weeks now. Every day we meet as a group at 9:00am and then have a guest speaker at 4:00pm. In between (and sometimes before and after), we all work on Independent Study Projects, or ISPs. Click the "continue reading" link to see what I've been up to.
For my ISP, I wanted to talk to locals in Dharamsala, and ask questions like "what do you do?, why do you do what you do?, what is important to you?, and what is important in life?" At the same time, I would study Buddhism, and could then explore how religious philosophy relates to and affects daily life.
I started reading "Words of my Perfect Teacher," an introduction to Buddhism, and "Autobiography of a Yogi," written by a Hindi yogi. I also signed up for a Buddhist philosophy course at the library called "The Thirty-seven Factors Concordant with Enlightenment."
Talking to people here and asking my questions was a harder and slow process. I had trouble formulating my questions and finding people to ask them to.
Near the end of week #1, somebody fixed the basketball court near the guest house where the leaders stay, and I started playing pickup games with Sean, Peter, and many Tibetans. I met a man named Kusang the first day I played. Although he is just 22 years old, he runs his own school, the Hope Education Center, where he teaches English to Tibetan refugees. Kusang told me about an English conversation class the school offers - every weekday at 5:30pm, foreign volunteers come to HEC and talk for an hour with students, three students to one volunteer. I started going right away. Conversation was sometimes awkward, and sometimes amazing. One day I had three students who spoke English quite well, and I was finally able to ask "what do you think is important in life?" That was really exciting for me. Other times we talked about marriage & divorce, families, life in Tibet versus in India, and traveling.
What I loved most about my time at HEC was how eager all of the students are to learn. While studying and doing work are usually seen as chores at home, here students ask me if I can spend time with them outside of class so they can keep studying and learning.
I've got to go now. This was my first post, and hopefully the first of many! Thank you for reading this, and I hope all is well for everyone back home.