Photograph by Noa Jones
Photograph by Noa Jones

Profession: student
Age: 32
Location: Dharamsala, India

Where are you from? New York, but I grew up in Panama.

How did you get into Buddhism? When I was in college in Kentucky I met some Tibetan exchange students. We got to be friends, and I started helping out with their Free Tibet stuff. We went on a peace march from Bloomington to Indianapolis. One friend took me to a Manjushri initiation with the Sakya Trizin. I was like, who is this Native American dude sitting on the throne? I sat my ass down and was like, “Right on.” I was an utter neophyte. I just went along with it, throwing rice, doing funky signs. I took refuge unknowingly; it wasn’t until I came to India that I took refuge [with H.H. the Sakya Trizin] for real.

What did you decide to study Tibetan? When I first started reading about Buddhism I thought, If I want to be good at this stuff I need to know what’s going on. I have to read it in its original language, not just taking it because someone said so—I wanted to know how everything was fitting together. I mean, Buddha even said, Don’t take my word for it. If you agree, you agree; if you don’t, you have to understand your reasons why you don’t. So that’s why I started studying Tibetan.

Vegetarian? No. I was until I came to India, and then the Tibetans challenged my vegetarianism.

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