Though the majority of Nepalese are Hindus, Buddhism has a strong presence in Nepal too – many of them being Tibetans who have fled their homeland across the Himalaya. Buddhism is definitely the dominate religion in the mountains where we were hiking – everyday we passed a myriad of prayer flags, prayer wheels, prayer rocks and various stupas. We were quite intrigued and inspired by all of this and decided to dive in head first and enroll in a 3-day Buddhist meditation retreat upon returning to Pokhara.

Buddhist prayer wheels

Very large prayer wheels

Prayer rocks

Prayer flags


A very new thing for both of us, we looked forward to learning meditation techniques as well as exploring more about Buddhism – from a monk. Would you believe, our monk was not the Tibetan Buddhist we were imaging but a rather sarcastic American monk from Pennsylvania with quite a domineering personality. Oh, the irony. To his credit, he had been a monk and teacher for over 30 years so he definitely knew his stuff. And as he explained, as a Westerner he was able to convey difficult concepts to us by using examples that we could understand and relate to.

Yeshi, our American monk and teacher

Lessons in Buddhism

Of course another side benefit was that his English was excellent. As we touched on complex topics, we were very thankful to have his full vocabulary and our full understanding in hopes of wrapping our heads around these deep ideas and concepts. Questions like, “What is happiness?” and “Who are you?” seem simple enough on the surface, but when they get subjugated to the monk’s Socratic Method of questioning, we were thankful that we shared his language when we needed to understand his reasoning and defend our thoughts.

Between our classes with the monk, we had guided meditation and yoga classes, both in the morning and in the evening. Meals consisted of vegetarian goodness and we slept on site at the retreat in simple but comfortable rooms.

A peaceful environment

Gathering at the prayer wheel

All in all, the retreat was a unique experience that I’m very happy we did. Of course, it is impossible to do anything but scratch the surface of Buddhism in a three day retreat, but it was still eye-opening and rewarding nonetheless. One of the most appealing parts of Buddhism is the idea that you can incorporate parts of the Buddha’s teachings into your own life without sacrificing your own religious beliefs and philosophical views. They are not mutually exclusive. And though I do like and respect many Buddhist beliefs (karma, for example) I’m not completely sold on others (i.e. reincarnation). Whether sold on the concepts or not, it was a treat to learn about Buddhism in heart of a Buddhist community in one of the most beautiful settings we’ve seen to date!

Our class