I am Buddha Tsering Moktan. I was born in 1972, in a small Tamang village of Nepal. When I was growing up, the only options for a Tamang people, other than agriculture, was to join the Nepalese or Indian army, or do coal mine work in India. Also some people became truck drivers.
My father was always in favor of education, so he made sure I went to school. I went all the way up to 10th standard. When I was seventeen, I came to Kathmandu. This was 1987, when all young Tamangs were leaving their villages, all boys either driving cabs and rickshaws, or working in thangka workshops and carpet factories. I began painting thangka, but then got a job in a thangka shop in Durbarmarg. It was there in the shop that I first came in contact with Westerners. At first I was so scared of them, as a village boy. But I liked the sound of the English, and I would always listen carefully and pay attention when I heard them speaking. This was my first interaction with the western world, and it was like a world university education, seeing all these people from Europe or America. I began to learn English so that I could sell the thangkas to the foreigners who came in, so that I could speak with them. And then I became interested in the art, curious about what it all meant so I began to study the books.
I have left the country twice – both times to Australia for the thangka exhibition. A professor came to the thangka exhibition, and he heard me speaking, explaining a piece, and he asked me to come give a lecture for the center. I spoke, for maybe 45 minutes, and they liked it. But in my mind, I was thinking of my life in the village, and I told myself that I must study more and go back to my villages.
I am doing BA in Buddhist study from Rangjung Yeshe Institute (Kathmandu University). My objective of study in this institute, after my graduation, I want to go back into my community, into my villages, and to teach about this in the local language, in the local manor, to the ladies, and to the normal people. I want to be with the people and help them because I believe as a student of religion, where you aspire for enlightenment of all sentient beings, demonstrating great compassion, everyday, and yet we don’t do something substantial? We must aspire, but we must also do work. I believe this is what I have learned from West.
I believe whatever the achievements that have been made in the West, is amazing and mankind must accept it as a fact that it is not given, it is worked for. In the East, we prey that these things will be given by god. Everything must be through our own hands and hard work, that is the bottom line, and that’s what the West proves and demonstrates.
So I have started this nonprofit organization; the Dharmadatu Foundation, to help educate and to help empower from a balanced view of East and West. Modernization cannot be stopped, so we have to modernize ourselves. Global culture, global brotherhood and sisterhood, modernization – we can’t stop it, but it should be managed. The way is education. But here in Nepal even educational institutions, so often understood as the best vehicle for social change, are built around conceptions of privilege, class, and social discrimination. Government schools are considered inadequate, of notoriously poor quality. Part of this mission is to contribute to reducing illiteracy, joblessness, and to help achieve the peaceful transformation of our societies from traditional into modern.
So I think if I work as a person in society, if I am a social person, I will raise these issues, these issues of inequality, injustices, and discrimination in society. People say to me, ‘why are you studying this Buddhism, why doing these things, Leave Nepal for good earnings.’ And so I say, ‘what you say is not wrong. You are entirely right. But I must at least try.’ My process has been like struggling my own identity. Now people realize, okay, this guy isn’t going to give up.