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Postcard from Russia

Voula Zarpani in Russia, June 2003

Here in St. Petersburg, the weather has been very unstable. Although we started with a lovely spring, we quickly moved into a three-day-summer and now it must be at least autumn, if not winter! In any case, it is comfortable and we are enjoying ourselves. Rinpoche's health is very good and we have discovered that the momos here are better than the ones in India or Tibet! Yes, I know it is unbelievable!

The people here are very sincere, it is a delight to deal with them. I truly think that in the West we have it too easy and we are spoiled with money and our high standards of life-style. Here, after the hardships of communism, people really believe that they should practice and they are extremely focused on that. We really lack that in the West. I can't quite put it into words.

You know until recently it was too difficult and expensive to make photocopies here, so people would hand copy any passage they would be interested in reading. If someone would somehow get hold of a Buddhist book, they would spend the whole night without getting any sleep in order to copy the book.

There are people who came for their interviews carrying with them such hand-written books. Now, how many times have you seen people been so careless about photocopied material that is handed out to them during a teaching in a Dharma center? Quite a contrast!

Also here money is not important. The aim is to translate and publish Buddhist books. The rest is secondary. It doesn't matter if there is any money left for food or clothes. You know these people told me that they have never bought any new clothes. What they wear is always second-hand. Do you know any dharma student like that in the West?

It is very inspiring to be here, despite the difficulty of the language. Since I do not speak any Russian, of course I have to rely on an interpreter all the time. I get to realize how difficult it is for our lamas who have to rely on interpreters all the time! I send you all my love and I hope that you stay healthy and dry.

Love, Voula

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