The way I see it, there were two different types of experiences I had on our journey to India. There were several deeply emotional experiences such as when I felt great happiness and contentment at the Sri Ram Ashram, and when I felt profound shock and despair at the poverty and chaos at the market place in Old Delhi. These were just a few of the many experiences I had in India in which my emotional state was dramatically altered or challenged. During these moments I discovered something new about my own happiness and undeniable connection with others.
However, there was also another type of experience that had a significant impact on my mind and the way I reason and make decisions in life. These experiences were mostly through our interactions and interviews with various leaders on the trip. The interviews that had the greatest significance for me were our last three. These were comprised of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Samdhong Rinpoche and Rinchen Khando. While these three individuals had different outlooks, they essentially stressed the same points and made me truly think about and evaluate the way I have been living my life.
One aspect of our trip that had an impact on me was the way the Dalai Lama, Samdhong Rinpoche and Rinchen Khando interacted with us. While I did not expect conversations based on ego and overconfidence, I was surprised by how clear and straightforward the dialogue was. For example, during our conversation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama I was struck by the pureness and clarity of his thoughts. This created a feeling of equality in the room. He made me feel as though I could reach eternal peace and prosperity and that all the tools were already within me. I just needed to figure out how to use them.
Our interview with Samdhong Rinpoche had the same effect. Although it was slightly harder to understand and follow the depth of his brilliant thinking, I still believed that I could reach the state of inner peace he had achieved. I will never forget the words of wisdom that Samdhong Rinpoche gave to us. When asked if he had any parting advice for us he replied quite simply, “No…advice is too easy to listen to and follow. I would rather you find your own authentic truths and follow those. That will lead to the deepest truths and therefore the best learning and success in life.”
I can honestly say that I will never forget this statement. Not because it was clever or unexpected, but rather because it was unlike anything anyone had told me before. I am naturally a very trusting person and when I find someone that I respect and admire, I will listen intently and openly to the values and beliefs they carry with them everyday. While this is in no way a negative quality to have, in my complete awe of these individuals, I forget to listen critically. I am quickly learning that this is the most important type of listening of all. While advice from others you respect is always welcomed and can often help serve as a model for what your own values can look like, there is no replacing what Professor Rinpoche called, “Your authentic truth.”
A trip like the one we took to India becomes what you make of it. If you want it to be a vacation, it can be that. If you want it to be a final trip with your classmates, it can most assuredly be that as well. As someone who has toyed with both of these strategies I have found that ultimately the best mindset to have is a willingness to be vulnerable and an openness to be changed.. Being placed in a completely new world like India, you are bound to have new experiences and with new experiences come new emotions and understanding. But without the openness to change, they stay as undeveloped images in your mind, when they could turn into life changing lessons. I got so much out of this trip because I went into each situation without preconceptions or rock solid beliefs, but rather an open mind that took in each experience and examined it carefully. Therefore with each new idea, I cut away all that distracted me and let myself be affected. I write this as the same person that left for India 3 weeks ago; same emotions, same dynamics, but with a changed perspective and a new outlook.