Long Awaited Autobiography Episodes

I have finished a draft of Through the Looking Glass, Book Two: “The Young and the Samsaric.” The first two books can be found  here. This represents about half of the complete work. Since my last post of these episodes I’ve added chapters 7-8 and revised chapters 5-6. The previously posted chapters are in a different format, but the content is not significantly changed.

This slowly ongoing work is autobiographical and focuses on the process whereby an ordinary American kid ends up doing a strange thing: becoming a Buddhist monk, and taking a long time to do it. I’ve chosen this means to at least attempt to convey what still bewilders many a Western Buddhist. I hope you find it helpful, or at least entertaining.

6 Responses to “Long Awaited Autobiography Episodes”

  1. Kevin Says:

    Venerable One. I enjoy our talks and your writtings a great deal. Your teachings are forward and easy to digest. I cannot wait to read the whole thing.
    Kevin

  2. aparna Says:

    Hi Bhante,

    Touched by the total, bare-all kind of honesty in your narrative.

    I find it an intriguing revelation that you started meditating at age 30, and right up to the age of 51 — twenty years — you went on messing up your life in many ways despite your meditation. I suspect this perplexing phenomenon of not being in control of your tendencies despite having a strong practice — or having a strong practice and a tendency to mess up at the same time — must be prevalent to an extent, though most of the literature available on meditation does not address it. My question to you is, now that in the process of writing about it you are reviewing your life at such close range what do you think of this phenomenon? Of course I must thank you for helping me learn (if not realise yet) that meditation is not a quick fix for life’s problems, but it would still help.

  3. aparna Says:

    And yes, has the situation changed now? What do you think was missing in your practice earlier?

  4. bhikkhucintita Says:

    Aparna:

    Thanks for reading this.

    The answer to your questions is easy: meditation is never a complete practice, and what I was doing was not Buddhist meditation, that is, a form of meditation that leads naturally to deeper wisdom. (I was also not very consistent in my practice over all those years.)

    The fact is meditation did have a stabilizing role in my samsaric life: I did not end up in addiction or depression as I might of otherwise, only in run-of-the-mill normalcy, not much different than your average Joe, but perhaps more willing to be reflective about it. Meditation alone could not, pop me out of the soap opera of normal samsaric existence, but it had clear benefits. I certainly do not want to discourage anyone from meditation practice; everyone should have some kind of meditation practice. It is just not a panacea.

    The answer of what was missing in my practice earlier is, as you might guess, the topic of the second half of my book. But I’ll give you a foretaste: Meditation has been an essential part of my Buddhist practice, but the development of wisdom, virtue, and dependent on those, renunciation, have as well. It has entailed a complete rethinking and reworking of my life, according to Buddhist principles. I’m still working at it, but I’ve never been more fulfilled. I look back on the part of my life you just read about and ask, “What was I thinking?”

  5. aparna Says:

    Dear Bhante,

    Any insights on how you could have handled this part of your life better, especially how you could have enriched your practice and made it more solid even while taking on the challenges of your samsaric situation, that we dusty world people may benefit from?

    • bhikkhucintita Says:

      Aparna,

      Individually the decisions I made in my samsaric life pretty much made themselves because of how I framed my life. Most of the pitfalls had to do with my sense of identity and pride, and with my taste for sensual pleasures. It has required a radical rethinking.

      My advice is to question everything to puts the self in the forefront. Instead one should embrace values that are not about “me” and devote yourself to them, particular when others benefit. In my story I had a big capacity for both self and devotion. Renunciation, the willingness to put aside self-interest should be cultivated.

      You do not have to become a monastic in order to realize this. The recent series on lay practice really is about rethinking the lay life in these terms.

      Now, as you look at your current life, you may find simply becoming selfless is not enough; you may have already painted yourself into a corner and do some breaking free before you can even ask the right questions.

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