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Photo by Kendall Marianacci, Nepal Semester.

Swartha

Hello ladies, gentlemen, and those of unspecified gender.

I’ve put off posting another Yak for a long time. Not because I dread writing them, and certainly not because I don’t have anything to write. It’s simply due to the fact that every time I think: “I should work on another Yak,” my next thought is “but I could use that time to meditate,” or “I could play cards with my homestay sister,” “I could go to a cafe with my friends,” the list goes on. There’s always something else I feel would be a “more productive” use of my time. Because I value the time that I spend with people I care about, and actively trying to grow, more than anything else. I want to use every chance I can while I’m here to improve myself and enjoy my time. I want to live by swartha. And that’s possibly the most important thing I’ve learned in the last 40 days.

I’ve learned many things throughout this course. I’ve learned the basics of Nepali, the history of Nepal, how to navigate Kathmandu without fear of getting lost, and development and the impacts of forced industrialization in non-industrialized countries, I could write a short novel about it all. To list what I am most jazzed about learning: I’ve learned that I love being in the outdoors with good people more than watching any show, playing any video game, or browsing any website, I’ve learned how to use the Singing Bowl, I’ve learned new ways to think and meditate, I’ve learned the Tibetan 100 Syllable Mantra and Sanskrit Biju Mantra, and I’ve learned a few phrases and words in Sanskrit. The word swartha itself isn’t what I refer to when I say the most important thing I’ve learned on this trip, rather its value to me, and the fact that I so strongly wish to stand by it. I feel it is the most beautiful word ever conceived in the history of language. Translated completely literally, it means selfish. This couldn’t possibly be a more inaccurate translation of the word.

Sanskrit is an extremely interesting language. It is the oldest language in existence, several words in English, and many languages throughout the world (particularly Nepali), come from Sanskrit. But that is not what intrigues me the most about it. To me, the coolest thing about Sanskrit is that many words require paragraphs, sometimes pages, to even somewhat accurately define in English. Swartha, in many ways, is one such word. It is a combination of two words in Sanskrit: swa and artha. Swa best translates to self, and artha to meaning. So to more closely define swartha, we would say it means self-meaning. But this only scratches the surface.

Swartha means to do things that coincide with your deepest values, to perform acts that impact you positively, that better you as a person, that makes you happy. Swartha means to live for yourself, for the improvement of yourself, for the happiness of yourself, for the realization of your goals. Swartha means to love yourself, to think positively about yourself, to be kind to yourself when you make a mistake, to always encourage yourself. Swartha means to master your best qualities, to acknowledge your faults and shortcomings, and rectify them, to be self-compassionate, to never judge yourself harshly for anything you do, have done, think, or believe, to know you matter, to trust that you are capable of anything you attempt. Swartha means to understand that every person around you is worthy of everything above, and to practice all of it even for them. That is what swartha means. And that is what I have chosen to live by. I understand and internalize the value of all these things far more deeply than I had before coming to Nepal, and it’s the biggest thing I’ve gotten out of this course. It shapes who I am today, and will for the next (ideally) 8 decades.