A while ago I traveled to Nepal to trek in the Himalayas, and to learn a bit more about myself and about the world from Buddhist spiritual teachers. As the night embraced the highest peaks in the world, I walked through the gates of a modern Buddhist monastery. Pale yellow lights shimmered from the classrooms where students were still studying their ancient sacred texts. Only the crackled sound of me turning the prayer wheels a couple of times, my footsteps in the garden and the bark of a stray dog in the distance brought rhythm to the stillness of the night. I thought I was alone when I suddenly felt somebody pulling my jacket. I turned around to see a little Buddhist kid with a big smile and sparkling happy eyes. He asked me laughing: "Do you have candy?"
It brings me great joy to share what I have, so I reached deep in my backpack and gave him all the candies and chocolate bars I'd bought to help me resist the long trek in the mountains. He ate the chocolate really fast and I soon realized that "do you have candy" were the only English words he knew. He took my hand and walked me to the abbot of the monastery without saying another word.
The abbot was a wonderful man in his fifties, with a most obvious trait: he was always laughing and smiling. He told me that when he was 5 years old, he ran away from his home in Tibet to escape the Chinese oppression. He had to leave his family behind and fled across the mountains with a group of strangers. He took refuge in a Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu and became a monk. In spite of all the hardships he'd lived through, he was now happy and peaceful. We sat down in a classroom and he shared a bit from the Buddhist tradition and their spiritual teachings. Every sentence he spoke was filled with big smiles.
"What's the secret to your happiness?
How do you stay so peaceful and joyful all the time?" I asked him.
He answered bluntly with a delicious laughter:
"I meditate," and then he was quiet.
He realized that I was hoping for some sort of ancient spiritual wisdom, which made him laugh ever louder. "Look," he continued a bit more seriously this time, "In the modern world, you have everything you need to have a happy life. You are free. You have access to an abundance of information online, you have bookstores and libraries to learn anything you want, and you can afford to buy everything you need. I had some visitors here who showed me that you even have apps for meditation. I don't know what those are. I just sit down and meditate." His loud laughter filled the classroom.
"You know what the problem really is? You fill your head with so much information but you never put it into practice. You never act on it. You never do it. You study meditation, you learn the techniques, you take the courses, you read the books, you go to classes but you never do it. It's that simple. You read books about happiness and about how important truthful relationships are in your life. You nod seriously in agreement with your head trapped between the pages and yet you are surprised by the simplicity of these teachings. Then you walk outside or go to work and do the exact opposite. And it's driving you crazy. You tell your friends to follow their dreams but you don't do it yourself. You discuss philosophy about what you read but never really live the wisdom. This contradiction between what you know and what you do is driving you nuts" This time we both laughed loudly. "Do it and you'll be happy."
The story is a bit longer and it gets even more interesting so I put it in a video for you. In this video, I tell the story of my journey in Nepal and what I've learned from the best minds in Silicon Valley as well as from the founders of the Angry Birds about our dreams.