TYP: I am really attempting to see people more clearly, to be able to see their motivation. But I find I am only able to see their motivation clearly, when I’ve actually cleaned the mirror of my motivation, to some degree.
Ani-la: This is exactly like a song I have sung in Nepal that has become the most popular song in Nepal.
“In the eyes of a flower,
The world appears as flower.
In the eyes of a form,
The world appears as form.
Reflection takes place according
To the shape of the object.”
What it is trying to say is how everything depends on how you learn to perceive things in your life.
Positive perception, positive effect. Negative perception, negative effect. And according to your understanding capacity, judgement takes place. That’s where we say, the “Reflection takes place according to the shape of the object.”
And then, it’s the most beautiful part of the song, says…
“May my heart always be pure.
May my words always be enlightened.
May the soles of my feet never kill an insect.
In beautiful eyes, the world
Always appears as beautiful.
May I see the brightness of the moon
In the darkness of night.
May I hear the music of life,
Even in the driest leaves.”
“In a pure heart, the world always appears as pure.”
That’s the song. And this song is enjoyed by most, youngest infant to oldest people, here in Nepal. And the conceptual resource is from Buddha’s teaching. From the Dhammapada.
So, this is how I’ve been trying to do things differently in my life.
TYP: Clearly, a song like this, like you say, influences young children, in a way that just simply being in a nunnery…
Here, I don’t scare anybody saying, ‘This is a Buddhist song.’ Or, this is a Hindu song. It’s just a song. Philosophy of life, you know. And everyone cannot say, ‘Oh, it’s not true.‘ Is it the right way to say… ‘Indisputable truth.’ Is that right?
So I’ve been trying to do things that way.
But of course the inner, essential aspiration is absolutely to have Dharma flourish more and more. And so, more or less… I think it’s working. (Laughing).
TYP: I’d like to touch in a little, as you shared, quite spontaneously you went out of the mold. And, a little bit reflecting on how… in this age, in this time, in the east and west… the way the feminine is manifesting in practice. How the Yogini is taking on different forms.
We shared this before, that some westerners have images of how women should be held (in view); the easterners have some image. And yes, while there are many new female teachers, but also the feminine does not always necessarily take that form. Can we reflect a little on the ways in which women, in which Yogini occurs, in her own form, in her own way, that is not necessarily trying to match a social role.
Ani-la: Well, at some level, of course, you have to try not to … contradict completely. That would be a bit too harsh. On people. You do something differently, but yet it’s… still you are within the frameline of the social norms. So then slowly, inspire them out, in different ways. I mean, even though I did something different, but still it was not completely, completely shocking things. It was ok. Some people were like, “It’s ok, but…” And still others said, “No. It’s not ok.”
“She’s not supposed to do this.”
But it’s still… (within range.) I mean, it’s trying to be skillful. It’s like feeding a medicine to a kid. Sometime you have to be strict. Sometime… ‘Come on, you are the best child ever. You’re really a good boy. You’re the smartest. You’re the most intelligent.’ You know, if he does that (take the medicine), like I think he’s going to be the greatest thing. We try to find our ways to get into their heart. In order to feed something that is good for them.
TYP: For the sake of benefit, listening to the situation.
TYP: Do you feel there are… if we touch in on this, between the east and the west, is there anything you would like to share that you find very positive of what you have seen of the eastern and western view of the feminine in practice? How they could inform each other? For the western to hear what is occurring in the eastern, and vice versa. We want to open up dialogue about the Yogini, so every cultural side is heard, and open.
Ani-la: Well, you see, I don’t think I am totally the right person, or the perfect person, to explain anything, or differences in those things, or judging anybody in such a way. But yet, yes, every individual has their own way of thinking, and their own way of analyzing things. Which is not necessarily the real truth, you know.
So from that perspective, I feel sometimes, what I really admire in the western women, in the women practitioners, western way of engaging or going into practice, is that they really like to learn things technically. You know, technical details. Understanding meaning. Ok, ‘Om mani padme hung,’ the mantra. What is it? How does it work?
But then, the sense of wrong, or minus thing, or such, with such a way, is sometime, someway they look for immediate result. Ok, if I do 3 months retreat, means complete transformation of certain things in myself. Or, certain real realization, or certain accomplishment, should be there. Like we go to an university for certain degrees. And that degree is a certificate degree. Degree certificate is what you look for. And that expectation, in that way, might not work. In that kind of context, of practice.
But in our way (eastern), maybe our problem is we are too blind faith. If it’s complete blind faith, that is the best way, the most powerful. But somehow, we are in between a little bit, you know. So we don’t ask too much questions. That is our problem.
TYP: So, there is a balance between analyzing and faith?
Ani-la: That’s where, I think, we need to develop… the technical way of approaching things, together with our own way of developing the inner, the faith of devotion.
So, I think, both ways there is a bit of a thing. But, I wouldn’t say this is too much that, this is wrong, this is right. Every one has their own way of… their own potential of understanding, their own understanding capacity. Is that right words? So, it’s a bit difficult to completely judge things, in such ways.
That’s how I see it.
TYP: Is there anywhere to highlight where listening could occur, you know? It appears to be… well, one aspiration about The Yogini Project is – certainly not from a feminist perspective; we definitely want to highlight where the feminine needs to be supported – but at the same time, truly there are amazing women, and just simple, women with good motivation, strong dharma practice the world over. Feels like there is real benefit in sharing.
TYP: Yes, sharing and showing this, having an exchange of ‘her’ stories. And so, beings can see their reflection. Someone who has a similar motivation, can overcome an obstacle. Or, in some of the stories you shared here, many of us, when we were children, we had anger. And in the image of that (being overcome)… So, touching in on the value of sharing stories:
If you would encourage… how would you encourage others to share their stories so that they are reflecting the feminine in practice, without highlighting ‘their’ story? (Not) just having it be ego amplification, in a sense.
Ani-la: Yes. In my case, I am very fortunate, and blessed, to be able to have had someone heal me in such a way (referring to her heart teacher, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche), that whatever development that took place within me, or whatever wrong or bad incident took place in me, never has it become something too much like a hunger for sympathy. If that would have taken place, then it probably would have been wrong. The wrong guidance would have taken place.
But, when I look back at the life I went through, no regrets. In fact, I rejoice in it. Because those experiences has helped me decide to become a nun. Because of my father. And then, now I tell people, ‘Two men changed my life. And both of them, I am equally grateful towards.’
If my father’s brutality, or the aggression, or the difficulties, if I hadn’t had to face it, I probably wouldn’t have been inspired to become a nun. If I hadn’t become a nun, I’m not sure I would have had the chance to meet my teacher. And if I had not had the chance to meet my great teacher, I don’t know what kind of transformation would have taken place within me. What kind of person I have been able to develop into, in myself. You know?
I’m not sure I would have been able to think about an aspiration to do things that are for the benefit of all beings.
Maybe I would be limiting myself within my self, saying ‘my’ life, ‘my’ husband, ‘my’ children. That’s it. That probably would have been my world.
But now I always enjoy the confidence, and the belief, the faith in myself, about being able… having the strength to take care of others. Yes, I can take care of others. That’s the belief I have. And it really makes me feel good!
Comfortable, you know. Relaxed. I’m not panicking. I’m not nervous. I’m not constantly thinking too much. I am able to just sit, smile. And do things I have to do. If this comes up, you know… [fine].
No regrets. Really.
Yes, I feel blessed. Just yesterday I was talking to my nun friends (at Nagi Gompa), “We have so many things to be happy in life.” Every moment to moment, just simple things. Think about samadhi, and think about Nepal. That itself is such a big reason to be happy, and rejoice. To be grateful for everything.
So many reasons to feel we are so blessed.
We are so blessed. There’s no reason for us to find anything about which to complain, about anything.
No? So I said to my friend, ‘Let’s have fun. Let’s go watch a movie.‘ You know…
TYP: There’s this open space… what I hear from you… is there is this open space that is the attitude, coming into gratitude, which opens into joy.
What I hear is that the source of the good qualities that have opened into what has been achieved in your life, really comes from your teacher in the form of blessings. There’s certain qualities that I hear, specifically humility, in that you were able to deal with what came up, what once was trauma or anger. And at the same time, humility, I feel what you are highlighting a lot, compliments.
Ani-la: Yes. Humility should not be something that you feel, ‘Oh, I’m nothing. I can’t do good.’ No. Humility with the confidence, and the faith in one’s self, that… I can do a lot. But that should not develop into arrogance. You know? Pride. Pride, in a positive way may be ok, but not arrogance. Once that takes place, then it’s already the sign that I am going down, down, down.
So as long as, every time I experience something good… I think of my teacher.
And yesterday, last night, me and my nun friend, we stayed up til half past three! And all we were talking about was… Yes, I was talking about my teacher. I said, ‘Yes look, essentially, our teachers are the emanation of all the Buddhas.’ The sense of all the Buddhas is represented by the physical form of our guru, but they never die. But somehow human nature is such that we want to hold on to something physical. With that habitual tendency, I said, ‘I still very strongly miss my teacher.’
And I can very freshly cry, from the pain of him physically, you know, departing.
But every time I have something good happening to me, something good in that I have been able to do something for others, or someone has expressed their gratitude or joy, I immediately thank my teacher. And when I thank him, when I think of him, when I miss him, I cry. The tears come down.
So.. I tell people, ‘As long as I never forget my teacher, I probably will never be out of track.’
Maybe I will get distracted for awhile, but once I (snaps) remember my teacher, and ‘Oh, I’m here. Yes.’
That’s how it helps. Is helping me a lot. That’s how a real guru works in your life.
TYP: Are there any other qualities you would highlight besides, of what your guru shared with you beyond humility and confidence? Are there any other essential qualities you would share with other aspiring Yoginis?
Ani-la: I mean, being clear about your motive! (Very emphatically). I think your attitude.
Being clear about what you are saying, about what you are thinking. About what you are doing.
Once you are clear about that, then we have the analytical ability to judge, within one’s self, whether what we are doing is right or wrong.
As long as things that you do are clear, clearly you feel right. And that it is for the benefit, not only of one’s self, but for all beings. This gives you a certain level of satisfaction, within yourself.
And with satisfaction comes a certain relaxation. You know, joy. That joy. And at the same time, gratitude. Gratitude towards someone who has done so much for you.
TYP: Thank you so much, Ani-la, for your kindness and time.
Ani-la: Thank you. It’s my joy. I wish The Yogini Project all the success.
Interview conducted by The Yogini Project founder Michael Ash, Boudhanath, Nepal, 2012.