Afra – a young Dutch woman on a path of becoming a Buddhist nun
Arta: "I know you have studied philosophy before, thus you know a lot of different ways of thinking. Why did you choose specifically Buddhism?"
Afra: “When I studied philosophy in high school our main subject was Aristotle’s virtue ethics and to me the idea of being a good human being and developing to your full potential was appealing. Of course, Aristotle had some weird additional exceptions, for example, that it is only possible for men etc. But for me the idea of developing to your full potential was the most interesting point.
With philosophy – you study all these different perspectives, but you don’t really practice anything.
It is just sort of ‘out there’ and you can look at it from an intellectual perspective and compare the ideas. For me, Buddhism just made sense somehow. Buddhism you can practice and make it your whole life, which is amazing. Maybe I am a bit naïve in just jumping into it.”
Arta: "You also probably studied Stoicism and Christianity etc. You can also practice those, but why did you choose Buddhism specifically?"
Afra: “That’s true. I really don’t know. It just feels like home. It just makes the most sense for me.”
Arta: "How long have you’ve been practicing for?"
Afra: “Not that long. But practicing in the sense of working on your mind and delusions longer (as my teacher would say – that is what being a Buddhist actually means). I think I really made an effort to work on my mind while studying Aristotle; trying to be a virtuous, good person.
I’ve always tried to be ‘the good girl’, but only recently I realized that it comes from my attachment to being liked
– which is one of the delusions in Buddhism. So ‘just’ being a good person is not enough, there’s always more to work on.”
Arta: "How did you get to the point – leaving the job and going to India?"
Afra: “After studying philosophy,
I tried worldly life for some time
– had a job, had a few boyfriends… and then the relationships ended and I was unhappy at my job. That was when it hit me:
the happiness I was chasing in these things, will run out eventually.
I didn’t think that this is what life is all about. That was the last trigger to really study Buddhism.
After that I went to India, Dharmsala, as I knew that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was there. That was two years ago – I was 29 years old. The decision did not happen overnight, that took some time. I thought if it won’t work out, I can always come home.”
Arta: "I know that you have thoughts of becoming a Buddhist nun. Can you tell more about this?"
Afra: “When His Holiness came to the Netherlands in 2018, I went there with my parents and a friend. There were a lot of ordained people there. I remember I said to my friend:
“Wow, do you see all those monks and nuns there? That’s the dream.”
She replied: “what do you mean? Yeah, for you maybe.” That was the first moment I realised that maybe that is actually the dream. I left the Netherlands few months later.”
Arta: "How did your family and friends react about your decision to go to India and explore Buddhism?"
Afra: “My family has always been very supportive and my friends as well. The person who had the most difficulties about this decision was me. Why would I want to go to India? From all of the places… (laughing)”
Arta: "It sounds a bit unusual – young woman from the Netherlands making that kind of decision."
Afra: “Yeah, but here at the institute, there are a lot of monks and nuns and it is quite normal to become one. It is all a matter of perspective.“
Arta: "What did you have to say goodbye to when you decided to become a nun? What does it mean to become a nun?"
Afra: “My teacher would say:
“Give up sex, drugs & rock n roll,“
if you really want to practice. Giving up having a partner, a house etc. Because that is a distraction for your practice.”
Arta: "Practicing what?"
Arta: "Why would you want to give it all up?"
Afra: “I feel I can only practice it if I give it all up. I think it is not even possible for me to have a relationship without any attachment, so how can I practice?“
Arta: "There is a stigma about Buddhism, that it is very egoistical, because you focus only on yourself. Can you share your thoughts about this?"
Afra: “Well, in the beginning yes, you are the main acquirer of the practice. That can sound egoistical. However, you have to work on yourself first and only then you can benefit others.
How can I be able to help others, if I am full of my own delusions and I cannot even see what the other person really needs?
My ability to help is limited for now.”
For now Afra is still living and studying at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute. After the studies in a few years she hopes to get ordained.
For anybody who wishes to find more information about Tibetan Buddhism, Afra suggests this video of her teacher Robina Courtin – https://youtu.be/cFMkVSpyVVI
. . .
 Attachment is necessarily I-based: dissatisfaction, neediness, expectation, manipulating others to get what I want https://www.thebuddhistsociety.org/page/love-or-attachment-by-robina-courtin
 In Buddhism, dharma is the doctrine, the universal truth common to all individuals at all times, proclaimed by the Buddha https://www.britannica.com/topic/dharma-religious-concept