Since arriving in Princeton, NJ two weeks ago, I’ve been challenged, frustrated, entranced, and fascinated by so much of what I’ve seen and learned about, but the most impactful moments of my experience thus far have been in the conversations I’ve had with my amazing co-participants and instructors.
When I was first applying to Bridge Year, the opportunity to explore religion and spirituality in one of the holiest cities in the world, Varanasi, was one of the main things that really drew me to India. However, dialogues about these topics began to organically emerge as early as the first night of orientation at Princeton, picked up during our short time in Delhi, and continued throughout our week in Sonapani and the beautiful surrounding region of the Himalayan foothills. Turns out I didn’t have to wait until Varanasi!
Ever since my first car ride with our incredibly thoughtful and insightful instructor Greg, I have been in dialogue with him about Tibetan Buddhism and its concepts of “bardo” and levels of consciousness (which inspired me to purchase “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” a couple days later), as well as other topics relating to spirituality and truth. I have also continuously been learning more about Christian theology through conversations with Josh, an observant American Baptist from West Virginia and probably one of the most brilliantly articulate people I’ve ever gotten to interact with. And, as I am in India, I have been constantly exploring the richness of Hinduism and its traditions through many of the planned and unplanned portions of our trip, as well as through discussions with my awesome and hilarious instructor Hemant about reaching the mind through the body and breathing. In the future, I also hope to have learn more about Islam, Sikhism, and Jainism, as well as to further explore my own Judaism and its role in my life.
Through all these amazing conversations (and the many others that I don’t have space to share here, some of which relate to religion and many others of which relate to different thought-provoking issues and topics), there has been one ongoing dialogue that has occupied much of my thinking and reflection since our last night in Delhi. This conversation, which has taken place in multiple parts, in several contexts, and with different combinations of people, ultimately deals with the fundamental nature of being a meaning-seeking being and has explored some really challenging questions:
I can’t fully answer all of these questions yet, but it has been absolutely exhilarating to wrestle with them together with my peers. It’s also kinda crazy to think that we’ve already reached such difficult philosophical and epistemological topics within two weeks of meeting one another! Ultimately, what makes an experience is not so much where you are – it’s about who you are with, the relationships you build, and what you learn from and with one another. I look forward to further exploration and discussion together!