A Monk in the Mountains, and Communication

I had a very interesting time a couple weeks ago. Lama Lobsang Samten, a Buddhist Tibetan monk was visiting the mountains of Chiriqui. If I understood correctly, he has been visiting Costa Rica every year and when friends here learned that he was going to be nearby, they invited him to spend a few days in Panama.

Not only was it interesting to meet this wonderful man, it was interesting to watch the communication. He is Tibetan and grew up speaking a language very different from ours. Then, he ended up in Montreal where he speaks French on a daily basis, and he has also learned some English though he admitted it was pretty rusty. Now he was in Panama speaking to a group of people some of whom spoke only Spanish, and others who spoke only English.

A lovely teaching and meditation space had been prepared.

A lovely teaching and meditation space had been prepared.

One can get by with pointing and gesturing, but when it comes to more complex things there is no substitute for a common language. Lama Samten spoke English well enough to be understood, and a bilingual student translated into Spanish. Sometimes there were questions and he needed his traveling companion (who spoke French, English, and Spanish) to explain something to him in French. She would explain his answer in English, and then it was translated into Spanish so everyone could understand. I found it fascinating to watch this process of communication. I think it’s unfortunate that in the US, learning languages isn’t given more importance. When you can talk with each other it opens up whole worlds of communication and understanding.

The teachings were basically about happiness, and how Buddhist philosophy and meditation can help you live a happy life. Lama Samten is a wonderful example. He escaped Tibet as a teenager when the Chinese came in, surviving a very perilous two month walk through the Himalayas to reach India. In spite of this very difficult time and being displaced from his homeland, he radiates happiness and kindness. His very presence lights up a room.

I was introduced to the Kadampa tradition in Florida and the founding monk is also a Tibetan refugee. The organization has grown so large that he teaches to groups at festivals, and very few have an opportunity to speak to him in person. This group, however, was probably 20-25 people. There were times for questions and answers, and also a social time later where I spent quite a bit of time talking with Lama Samten. He loves to laugh, joke, share, and connect with others. His happy attitude is so contagious! He really is a special person.

Smiles and happiness!

Smiles and happiness!

Word is that he is going to come back next year and if at all possible, I am certainly going to be there.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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8 Responses to A Monk in the Mountains, and Communication

  1. Laureen says:

    What a wonderful opportunity you were able to enjoy. You really are leading a blessed life Kris. Thanks for keeping us posted!


  2. Don’t you just love living in a place where the rest of the word comes to you? You were so fortunate to have met him and participated in his workshop. I can see the happiness radiating from you all the way to Ometepe.


    • It is true. A lot of interesting things go on around here. Hopefully I will be radiating in your neighborhood soon. My biking partner seems to be having a great time on the road and will be heading here soon. We’ll be leaving on the 23rd or 24th.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. heidi lilla says:

    thank you for all your nice blog entries! my son in law is from panama and we are considering moving there in another two or three years to retire! and also, thank you for mentioning that languages are so important to communication! i lived in canada for many years, and languages are more of a priority there than in the states, seeing that the country is bi-lingual! where i come from, switzerland, we have 4 official languages, and it’s mandatory in school to learn at least one!


    • Thanks you for your comment. I am so glad you are enjoying the blog. I agree, languages are important and I wish I had learned more when I was young. It’s harder at my age but I am thankful for the Spanish I do know because it’s such a pleasure to have Panamanian friends. I hope if you retire here that you are as happy as we are. We’ve found Panama to be a great place to live.


  4. schuttzie says:

    What a wonderful experience, Kris! I’d have loved to be there and just soak up the happy, positive energies this person obviously exudes. I’ve read some books on the Dalai Lama and they are full of wisdom of life and learning to be a good person.

    Languages are important and I really need to learn Spanish as mine is very limited. Communication is key in learning another culture and assimilating. Thank you, for sharing, Kris!


    • It was a great experience and I agree about the Dalai Lama, another of these amazing people. His books started me on a whole new path.
      Good luck with the Spanish. It is hard and takes a lot of time but it’s really worth it.
      Thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed the post 🙂


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