Uma Pitta is the administration manager of KF India. Below she shares her journey to KF India and what inspires her work.
KF: How did you start working with KF India?
Uma: Back in 2013, after the death of my sister, I threw away a much-cherished career, where I was managing a corporate Compliance unit at an international bank, and dived off the deep end. All I knew was that I wasn’t ready if death came calling and I needed to prepare and get out of the cycle of life and death.
I gave myself three months to figure out where this would all lead to and landed at a nunnery in Siddhpur, Dharamsala. I sent out fervent prayers to all spiritual masters to send a clear message through word, guidance, or inspiration on what I needed to do. Just a week before the deadline date, a woman doing retreat at Deer Park Institute arrived to spend a few days at the nunnery. She was very adamant that Deer Park (Bir) was the place for me to get a proper foundation in Buddha Dharma. I took that as a clear sign—and moved there.
After almost 15 months of attending teachings and volunteering at Deer Park I realized, there was no going back to my old way of life. With the hope of working in Buddhist spiritual centers, I approached Deer Park management for references. To my utter amazement, I was connected with KF for a position in their India operations. Never in my wildest imaginations did I fathom of being given an opportunity to work within the Khyentse Mandala. Ever since then, there has been no looking back.
KF: What is your role at KF India?
Uma: My role is that of a general administrator—right from coordinating with organizations and individuals funded by KF, to documentation and accounting. The other most recent role is that of School Coordinator at the Dzongsar Kanishka School, a project under Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro Institute that KF India is sponsoring.
I report to Bel, who is the KF India Liaison and work closely with KF India directors and the India program committee members, where we vet programs in India that are recommend to Rinpoche.
KF: Over your time working with KF India, what’s been your favorite experience, or your favorite things that’s happened?
Uma: There are so many (laughing).
KF: You can share more than one!
Uma: Well, the fun part of my job is multi-tasking. The sheer challenge of trying to make multiple things work on time and as planned—is invigorating. My favorite times are when the teachings and pujas happen. I see the whole sangha gather. The entire energy of the environment changes. You see people working together, and it’s not about just one organization, it’s all about everybody from all walks of life, from all over the globe. My first experience of this was the Tara Puja in April 2017.
My other favorite experience is when we have the medical camps, and that’s a totally different kind of engagement. The vast majority of people that come are Indian villagers. You have these very old people, a lot of kids and mothers, coming in and walking long distances just to come to the medical camp. The reason they come is because: one, they get good quality medicine and, two, they are treated so well.
The feedback that I always get from the villagers is, “You guys treated us with so much respect and concern. That’s not what we get when we have other groups or other organizations that hold similar health camps.” It inspires me because in the smallest of ways, the medical camp is contributing to the community. It matters a lot to them. When you look at these individuals, how grateful they are, it humbles you.
KF: Why is it so important to have a KF India?
Uma: The programs that KF is focusing in India function differently. To enable KF in establishing a more active role in India, it is necessary that we develop operational capabilities and participate in the operations of these programs. This in turn requires that we have someone on the ground handling those responsibilities in real time.
KF: What is your aspiration for five years from now, through KF India?
Uma: India is taking steps to honor its rich Buddhist heritage. Indians will slowly but surely begin to tap into the wisdom teachings of the Buddha. Many more Buddhists in India, especially in small towns and villages are actively seeking authentic teachers and reliable sources of Buddhist teachings in their local dialects.
Keeping these developments in mind, I aspire that through KF India, we serve to connect genuine seekers with the timeless wisdom teachings of the Buddha.
Right now KF India is working with two Buddhist groups from the south of the country to help them get genuine teachers who speak their language. Our advisor Raji Ramanan, has played a key role in actively engaging with these groups to organize and participate in “Dhamma Teachings” in their villages. We hope to help develop these groups as knowledge hubs that share their learnings with other wisdom seekers.