An old friend of my husband’s recently took the first vows towards becoming a Buddhist nun. I didn’t know this, but apparently there are some 300 vows on the road to being a Buddhist nun. Hearing about her choice brought up an old nagging feeling that I’ve often had. I used to feel much more torn about the direction I should go in my life.
I had the good fortune to be born into a family that had access to and an understanding of the world’s most profound philosophy. I knew that our purpose here is to seek moksha, reunion between our divine soul and the rest of God. It’s a very difficult journey that takes hundreds, if not thousands, of lifetimes. It requires discipline, faith, strength, empathy, and sacrifice.
Shouldn’t I strive to have all those things? I thought as a child. Shouldn’t I do everything it took to get the most value out of this life? To move my soul forward as much as possible on the path to moksha? That is what life is for and it would be a waste and a broken promise to God to not pursue that.
As you can probably tell, I was a rigid and passionate child. I was fixated on my soul’s duty and scared to miss the mark and not fulfill every ounce of promise within me.
That all suggests a monastic path.
Yet I was drawn to family life. I longed for a husband. I ached to have someone who would love me the most, who would value me above others, who would want me and only me. I wanted children and a house and a garden.
For those of you familiar with Hinduism you probably realize that there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Hinduism usually suggests that people fully pursue life in the world and do it to the best of their ability, waiting until retirement to turn to purifying the soul and letting go of the worldly desires. It’s the exceptional few who are ready for ascetic life right from the start.
And I suppose I wanted to be one of those few. Wanted to be exceptional (which means I was already off to a bad start!)
I used to say to myself, you must have had that family life already hundreds of times. How many lifetimes do you plan to spend being a spouse and a parent? You can’t do that forever. You have to move on to the next step. Not that I had any way of knowing if and how many times I had lived this family life. I just assumed that I must have done it many times considering that we are in the last age of the earth now.So I kept trying to tell myself not to want the husband and children. I told myself I was repeating myself and wasting valuable time and most precious of all, a human embodiment.
But I finally accepted that an ascetic nun life was not what I wanted and that that was okay. It is okay to desire a family. I no longer think it is a waste. I think I can do a lot to purify my soul as I practice love and empathy and sacrifice with my husband and child. I am pursuing moksha in a way that is a slower pace, but that is okay. It isn’t a race.
In the Gita Sri Krishna says that no progress is ever lost. Every little step we make towards moksha is cumulative. Every moment of love or selflessness or true connection does move us forward. It doesn’t have to all be finished in this lifetime. Slow and steady is better than burning out. That is what I have learned for myself
I am still fascinated by those who choose the life of a nun.
I know that I could not do it. Not in this life. Not as I am now. It has become clear to me that this life was never meant to be a monastic one for me. Whatever urge I may have felt towards that it was born out of a feeling of obligation and not a pure “calling,” as they say. I wonder what it feels like to have the desire to be a nun and have that be stronger than the desire for a family and the joys of regular life. Maybe in a different life I will experience that. But it is not for this life.
My favorite thing about being in my thirties is the confidence it has given me. I know and understand myself in such a sure way. It is a relief after the massive soul searching and questioning of my twenties! I trust myself and my instincts now. I am content and at peace. My life is happy and I am satisfied with my little steps closer to God each day.
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