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Lions Roar : March 2015
Ebola continued from page 50 own death that really troubled me. It was the impact that my death would have on people I love. So when I was able to see them and embrace them, it was a very special moment. I’m thankful that I was blessed enough to have that, especially given that so many people who contract this disease don’t. When people in Africa recover, many of them leave the treatment center and discover that half of their family is dead. So for me to be able to walk out and embrace my family was a profoundly fortunate occurrence. It gave me greater empathy for what some other people are facing and how painful it would be to live when your family doesn’t. How has this experience changed you? It’s still all so raw and fresh that I feel like to say how it’s changed me is speculative. But it definitely has. When you go through something as big as this and you confront your mortality as directly as I did, it has an impact. I think it’s going to make me more empathetic, gentler, and more under- standing of what really matters. Hopefully, I’ll be more able to see through surface- level irritations. I was blessed with so much good energy from people that I feel the need to pay that forward. What’s next for you in life? I’ve always tried to orient myself profes- sionally toward pursuits with compassion behind them. I’ll keep doing that. I’ll keep fighting for a better future for all of us, where people have access to things like health care. Professionally, things are a bit up in the air. Maybe I’ll get a job. Maybe I’ll keep writing. But I know that I’m going to continue to use Buddhism’s lessons, as well as my own experiences of the value of human beings, to guide what I do. I know that might sound a little lofty and maybe even pretentious, but I think it’s important to have some sense of responsibility for your environment. How has this experience changed your understanding of Buddhist practice? It has made me understand how impor- tant it is. When I was really sick and confronting the fact that I might die, the thought kept arising in my mind: “I wish I’d spent more time deepening my understanding of dharma.” Buddhist texts tell us that a human birth is a pre- cious opportunity and we’re blessed to be exposed to the teachings. I hope that as I get older, I’ll be able to deepen my practice so that I can be of more use to my sangha and friends and be able to better care for the people around me. Do you want to go back to Liberia? I’ve realized my status as a survivor gives me a connection with other peo- ple who’ve survived this virus, and I’m hoping that at some point I can be of help to them. So I don’t know when— and I wouldn’t say it’s in the immediate future—but at some point I’ll be back in Liberia. ♦ H P D: Teachings on the Eight Worldly Dharmas By Lama Zopa Rinpoche Edited by Gordon McDougall $10 “Buddhism is a house full of treasures— practices for gaining the happiness of future lives, the bliss of liberation and the supreme happiness of enlightenment— but knowing the difference between Dharma and non-Dharma is the key that opens the door to all those treasures.” —Lama Zopa Rinpoche Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive po box 636, lincoln, ma 01773