My Path To Becoming A Buddhist | Emma Slade | TEDxSevenoaksSchool


Translator: Tijana Mihajlović
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven You are cowering on the floor. Above you is an unknown man. He is pointing a gun at your head. He has your life in his hands. What matters to you now? What do you know which is of any use? This is the situation I found myself in in September 1997, in a hotel room in Jakarta, Indonesia. I believe it was
the start of my awakening. At the time of this incident, I was working in the financial
markets in Hong Kong, making significant size
investments for a global bank. I had made the decision
to move into a financial career after the death of my father. He had always felt
that I would suit such a career, and so I finished my studies in Fine Art and decided to grow up
and get a proper job. And I loved it;
it was fast, it was exciting. I had placements in New York,
London, Hong Kong. I ate balance sheets for breakfast. (Laughter) I wore high heels
and I walked with a wiggle. (Laughter) And then came Jakarta. As the door opened,
I took my chance and I ran. And my body escaped. But in the days that followed, I began to suffer
what I was later to discover was severe post-traumatic stress disorder. In this condition, the past and the present
know no difference. So I would be sitting
in my office in Hong Kong, looking at those balance sheets, as I could smell his skin against my body, as I could hear his shoes
moving back and forth towards me. In the yogic and Buddhist tradition, we have a metaphor
for the development of a human being – the total development of a human being – and it’s that of the lotus flower. Now, the lotus flower begins in the mud, in the base of a lake, and from there it grows up, up, up, looking for light, looking for the Sun
and the surface of the water. Jakarta was my mud. But it was also the seed
of my future development. As I lay cowering on the floor, I knew the preciousness of a human life and I knew its impermanence. Also, a seed of compassion was planted, and I’ll explain. As I left, and I ran out of the door
and down the corridor, behind me many armed men
ran into the room. There was much gunfire. And later on that evening,
when I sat down with the police, they showed me a photograph of the man. And he was slumped against the hotel wall in his underpants. And around him the spatters
of blood, everywhere. And they were very pleased
to show me this photograph. And I looked at it, and I felt such sorrow; such sorrow for this man,
such sorrow for this situation. And this moment and this feeling, out of all of these moments
and all of these feelings, is the one I don’t forget. Now, back in England I had help to recover from post-traumatic
stress disorder. Once I had recovered enough
to see my life clearly, I felt that I’d been treating it
very superficially, and that after this experience,
I really needed to inquire more deeply into what it is to be a human being, what the potential
of a human being might be. And so I resigned my job, and I stumbled across yoga, and I found I was naturally
very adept at yoga. I pursued it, enjoyed it, and it helped me gain trust
in myself and the world again. At the same time,
I began to look more closely at a long-held interest
in the nature of mind, particularly as described
in Buddhist practice. And this is the reclining Buddha
of my grandfather, which I saw as a child in our home, and which always I wanted
to have near me, and that is still with me now. As a result of this interest in Buddhism, I visited a Buddhist monastery. And I heard in this
Buddhist monastery this mantra. It’s called “The Great
Mantra of Compassion.” You see it and hear it
all across the Himalayas. When I heard this mantra,
it really touched something in me, something very deep in me,
buried deep in me, I think. Now, there’s many ways to say this mantra. With the risk of being spiritual X-factor, I’m going to just show you the way
that I like to say it, okay? (Singing “The Great Mantra of Compassion”) Something like that. Now, I continued to teach
yoga and meditation and investigate Buddhism for many years. And then I probably reached
some kind of ceiling, here in the West. But I was lucky enough to get
the opportunity to go to Bhutan, the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, in 2011. And when I went there – that’s somewhere I’d wanted
to visit for a long time – I met a monk in a temple and something very profound happened. I returned to England and then I decided to go back
to Bhutan to find him because something had happened there. So I returned to find him and discovered that he was a Lama. A Lama is someone in Bhutan
who must have done at least three years, three months,
three weeks solitary retreat. So he’s somebody who’s specialized
in the nature of mind. And it was obvious that he was my teacher
and I was his student. And after that, things went very fast. Here’s my Lama.
(Laughs) Obviously, when I first met my Lama, I still had my hair and normal clothes, but in 2012 he said to me,
out of the blue, “Now you change your dress,” and he was telling me
to become a Buddhist nun; he was telling me to give up
lay occupation, to become celibate, and to train my mind
for the benefit of others. I was amazed that he suggested it and, of course, said yes.
(Laughs) So I began the preliminary practices
and trainings of a nun: many prayers, many meditations. I began to study the language of Tibet, classical Tibetan language. And I kind of thought,
“I’m peaceful now. I’ve made it.” And as it says here,
I was ready to put my slippers on, maybe look at the sky. But all that compassion practice,
all those mantras, they had affected me, in fact. And I realized that I wanted
to give back to Bhutan, the country that I love so much, and I also wanted to put my wish
to be a compassionate person … into action. And so, in 2015,
I founded this UK charity. It’s called “Opening
your heart to Bhutan.” And this is a favorite thing of mine: to be with the children that we help. This is Tenzin Wangchuk in Eastern Bhutan. He has a cerebral palsy
but he’s a fantastic artist, and I’m there looking at
his artwork with him. This is another child in East Bhutan who spontaneously just came
and gave me this hug. This child is actually blind
but came and hugged me. And this is really why I do what I do
in far-reaching places of Bhutan: bringing practical help,
education, medical supplies, etc. to children who need my help. Of course, it’s ironic now that my financial training
is of great help in running a UK charity
and running many projects in Bhutan, organizing many people,
looking at the costings of things, inquiring about how to achieve
things on the ground. So the skills of old have been very useful in bringing me now
a very meaningful and happy life. Now, in terms of your own
process of awakening, I would really like to share with you
that your life is in your hands. But you should ask
what matters to you now. What do you know which is of any use? More of what I know is here and here. Thank you very much. (Applause)

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