What wisdom can a 20-year-old Buddhist nun impart to a group of people more than three times her age? This young Vietnamese woman, who at the age of 15 joined a nunnery in the Imperial city of Hue, had us almost in tears by the end of an hour-long conversation. First we asked her all kinds of questions:
Why did she decide to become a Buddhist nun? (She was inspired by the way an older brother who had become a monk had changed.)
What is her day like? (She gets up at 3:30 AM, brushes her teeth, chants for 45 minutes, does some cleaning, has breakfast at 6, goes to school, returns, more cleaning, more chanting and bed by 9:30 PM.)
What does she find most rewarding and most difficult? (Finding inner peace is the most rewarding--and also the most difficult.)
And then she asked us a question: What was the greatest difficulty we had experienced in our lives? Some answered "raising children." Others said "balancing work and family." But most said "losing a loved one."
To which she responded that "Yes, that is the most difficult. You are sad but we meet people and then they leave, just as we are meeting today. And we must let them go though they stay in our hearts. That is Buddhism. We believe the one who has left us also feels our pain and we must find peace so that they may find peace. (And maybe be reincarnated.)
Except for the reincarnated part, her words touched home.