J Where were you born?
? I was born high up in the mountains.
J What brought you to Scotland?
? My husband is from Scotland. I married a Scotsman.
J Where did you meet him?
? I met him in my own country.
J Do you have a strong national identity being stretched between you own country and Scotland?
? No, I don’t. Because I was brought up in a different country from the one I was born in and I now live in Scotland. I have lived in Scotland most of my life.
J I’ve heard that you’ve been around the world. Why?
? It was mainly my husband’s idea, to go around the world: to take a break and travel because travelling is not something I really enjoy. I don’t enjoy travelling so much. But my husband always wanted to go off. And I thought it was a good idea to take a break from my work and go and be in a place where I’ve never been.
J And you met your family on the way as well?
? I met my family, my husband’s family and lots of other friends, my husband’s family and some friends are in Australia.
J So what did this trip do to you? Did you come back with something special? Have you gained from it? Not in size. [laughter]
? I have gained in size as well! It does help me to see different people, different places, how people live and how we get caught up in small, small things within ourselves. It has broadened the way I look at things.
J Have you changed in your everyday life after this trip?
? Maybe, though not from how it looks on the outside, but because of the experience I have simplified my life now.
J Just what do you mean by that?
? That’s a good question. [laughter] By having not too much expectation, just to take it as it comes, whatever I’m faced with: and also not to make a big deal out of little, little things.
J So, you’re more distanced!
? Yes, I probably don’t get so involved emotionally with situations. Not as much as I used to before. But I don’t know how long it’ll last because I’m back only six-months. It may not be like this for a long time. [laughter]
J Are you back in your job now?
? I am back in my job and in other situations too. I used to have lots of friends and a busy social life. I don’t do that so much any more. Not don’t do it, I don’t feel that I need to do it. So I can make a choice.
J You’re a Buddhist!
? Yes, I’m a Buddhist.
J You’ve always been a Buddhist?
? I was born in a Buddhist family. But when I was young I did practise a bit of Hinduism. I used to do a lot of meditation and things like that; and then I came to ___ and there was a period of time in my life that I didn’t do anything. But I have started to practise Buddhism
J And do you find it easy to have your working life to feed yourself and then to have your Buddhist life to evolve spiritually?
? For me to be able to do my work properly, I need to have my practice. Without my practice I probably wouldn’t be able to perform.
J How do you think Buddhism influences your working life? What do you mean exactly?
? I don’t get affected so much if anything happens at work. I have to deal with quite a lot of clients who are distressed and also there is office politics. I don’t get involved. I don’t get affected by it. I can detach myself from the situation and not be judgemental. And also, this thing about impermanence and having compassion, that helps me to remind myself whenever a difficult situation arises.
J You don’t find it scary to turn into a Buddha tomorrow? You’re looking forward to it?
? To become a Buddha will probably take many, many lifetimes. But that’s what my goal is.
J Did you take Bodhisattva vows?
? I’ve taken Bodhisattva vows many times.
J What are your views on Buddhism in action? Are you an engaged Buddhist?
? Buddhism in action…I think means quite a lot. In a simplified form for me would to be aware of what you are doing and to be kind and compassionate.
J Do you do anything for the environment?
? I don’t think deliberately, but I recycle things; and I’m quite aware of the Karmapa’s teaching about the environment. That’s something that really appeals to me. I really admire when people out there are aware of that. It really makes me feel happy.
J Who’s your teacher?
? Ringu Tulku Rinpoche. He’s the one who probably helped me get back into the Buddhist way of living. Although I was born in a Buddhist family, I didn’t have too much connection with Buddhism for some reason. But coming back here [to Scotland] I went to quite a few classes and teachings and when I met Rinpoche I thought “This is it!” I got a connection.
J He’s cute, isn’t he?
? He’s cute! [laughter]
J Would you like to say anything else?
? When we were travelling, we did manage to go to quite a few places – Buddhist retreats. Going to Sikkim and doing a month’s retreat was a highlight of our trip. We stayed in the retreat centre. It’s beautiful and I would advise people to take a year out and enjoy.
J Thank you!
Nougaro Saint Sernin/Jet is French and lives in Workington, England with her husband Mike. She is now retired and enjoying her leisure time. Jet has been a Buddhist since 1992 and a student of Ringu Tulku Rinpoche.
Answer in next month’s edition of Many Roads.