Kinley Wangmo is a Buddhist nun with a face of an angel. Her glowing shaved head sets off her adorning white skin and round brown eyes. With a gentle smile, she moves with elegance and speaks with grace. She is beautiful!
In the last four months, she was my closest friend and often she felt like my only friend while I was tucked away from the outside world. Sometimes I sat next to her during the nuns’ evening prayers and she would offer me an orange. At other times, we shared meals together or sat quietly side-by-side soaking in the sun. But almost everyday she would come to my room for a visit and I would make her tea. While sipping tea, she practiced her English by answering my endless questions about nunnery life.
She told me how she came to be a nun at the age of eleven. She dropped out of school in the sixth grade leaving behind her small village and the difficulties of farm life in hopes of making a difference in the world by learning meditation and Buddhism. She was one of several nuns who built the Pema Choling Nunnery with her own hands and now twelve years later she was the head nun.
And although she was very busy running the nunnery, sometimes she would accompany me on my daily walks. At the end of November, knowing that our time together was coming to an end, we took our last walk together. We strolled down a winding jagged narrow dirt road cut out of the side of a mountain. The rains had long ended and November’s clear blue skies permitted the sun to transform everything into a soft amber hue. We were surround by the forest dropping golden pine needles, which twisted and turned all the way to the ground adding to the blanket of their brothers smothering the forest floor.
As we slowly walked down the quiet mountain, I shared with her my dreams of one day having a family and writing a book about Bhutan. And she told me about her plans to teach at the nunnery for two more years before she would enter meditation in the forest for the rest of her life. I thought about how our lives were heading in opposite paths. I was going to be adding more things to my life, more attachments, more sufferings while she was simplifying her life, trying to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I admired her and a part of me wished we could switch lives; that I could inherit her vast knowledge on Buddhism and aspire to enlightenment.
We continued walking down the hillside with the sun warming our backs and watching our shadows moving along in front of us; mine of a tracksuit with a pointy beanie and hers of a robe fluttering in the wind. The shadows looked so different. Our lives were so different. But somehow the world had brought us together, arm in arm, under descending pine needles on a remote, peaceful mountain. She was my dearest friend and I was sad knowing that this was our last walk together.
Then as if she was reading my thoughts, she sighed and softly said, “Time is passing so fast, our lives are going. Soon we will no longer have a shadow. This is impermanence.”
For the rest of the walk, we remained quiet reflecting on the nature of impermanence that could easily be seen all over the forest floor. Thinking about how fast life passes, my heart filled with gratitude to have met a friend in this short life who was purely selfless, giving up a materialistic life with the intention to get out of samsara and seek enlightenment for all. She was my real life hero and several weeks later when the time came for us to say goodbye, I tried hard not to weep, as all my lessons about impermanence couldn’t help my sappy heart. To my surprise, she also wiped away her tears and squeezed me farewell. As the car drove me away down the road we walked together so many times, I prayed that one day I would see my friend with her face and heart of an angel once more.
Thank you Anim, Kinley Wangmo, for being such a great friend to me. I hope that you’ll reach enlightenment soon! You inspire me to be a better person. xoxo