It sounds like the stuff of a bad comedy, but nineteen-year old nun Kunga Yeshe (formerly Jessica Topaz) is sincere about her spiritual path.
Last year, when she left high school, she moved to Gampo Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Nova Scotia, and now her days consist of meditating, working, and studying Buddhist philosophy. In an interview for beliefnet, Kunga explains why Buddhism felt right to her and why she made the leap to became a nun. Here is a slice of that interview:
How did you discover Buddhism?
My stepmom gave me a book called “World Religions” by Huston Smith for my 13th birthday. I guess she knew that I’d been searching for something spiritual. I’d go through the book and test out different religions. Once I went to a Baha’i Temple, which was a wonderful experience. There was something in the atmosphere and in the people–the way that they were interacting–some kind of real openness that I hadn’t experienced anywhere.
What was it about Buddhism in particular that felt right to you?
I remember going through Huston Smith’s book and any mention of a god or creator, that sort of thing, threw me off immediately. I didn’t believe that there was some being that created everything I was experiencing. So when I looked at the Buddhism chapter, I kept looking for something where I could say “this doesn’t fit,” but it sounded pretty good. I started thinking, “Well gosh, maybe this is it.” I started telling my friends, “I think I’m a Buddhist.” My friends didn’t know what to say exactly.I started wondering about nuns–knowing about Catholic nuns. There was a real connection there. If I hadn’t been to the Catholic school, I don’t know if I would have had such a strong connection to monasticism. I reasoned that when someone is a monk or nun, that’s it. That’s their job; that’s everything they do; it’s what their lives are about. All of their purpose is their practice or their study or their religion. It’s a very single-pointed focus.
Was your high school supportive of your religious explorations?
Wauwatosa East High School is known for being a really excellent school. But, as with most public schools, there isn’t any real exploration of spirituality.
I found this Shambala Center in Milwaukee. I got serious about being Buddhist and started actually learning what it was all about. I started to do meditation–at least once a week for one hour–and made connections with the community there. And then Tuesday nights they’d have open house teachings. I sat in on those classes for a few years, and did meditation and got involved in other ways.
To read the complete interview, visit beliefnet.