UNIVERSAL DHARMA

So Many Roads ~ INTRODUCTION

When I began work on my memoirs early last year, it was primarily for my own edification, and at first I didn’t think about getting them printed, but as they unfolded, and unexpected things came out, as they have a way of doing, I thought parts might be of some interest to others, even though they might not have traveled as widely as me. They became so voluminous, however, that to print them as one book would have been cumbersome, as few people have time for such, and so I decided to cut it into parts. This, therefore, is the first part, telling of events from my first quarter-century ~ the formative years, as it were. Subsequent parts will hopefully follow in due course.

The main inspiration came from a book called “A Single Night’s Shelter,” the autobiography of an American monk named Yogacara Rahula, which I came upon in the library of a Viet-namese temple in Virginia. Glancing through it I recognized his story as very similar to my own, in that we had stumbled across Buddhism in much the same way; he’d also traveled overland from Europe to India along the Hippie Trail, through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I excitedly read it very quickly, and realized that we’d been to many of the same places, done similar things, and even met some of the same people. I ad-mired his frankness and honesty, and before going further, must express my indebtedness to him, as otherwise I might never have settled down to write my own account.

There was no address in it whereby I might have contacted him, and I presumed he was still in Sri Lanka, where he had or-dained. Later, however, I met a Sri Lankan monk in Detroit, who told me he was in Virginia, not far from the place where I’d found the book. I got an address and wrote, and not long afterwards got a reply by email.

It wasn’t easy for me to set about writing this, and I’d put off do-ing so for years, and then got the idea of writing it in bits and pieces in no particular order, thinking of calling it: JOIN THE DOTS, as that’s what anyone reading it would have had to do, jumping back and forth trying to make sense of it all. Then, when I did make a start, I found myself more-or-less at the beginning and going on from there, but even so, some dislocation was un-avoidable, as many things happen at the same time, while we can tell of them only one-by-one. So, reading this will require some concentration and imagination, not to say interest. I invite you to join me on my journey, and in so doing, you may realize that your own journey is interesting, too, and something to be treasured.

Years ago, in one of my books, I wrote that if asked to tell the story of our life without mentioning anyone else, we could say almost nothing, as our lives are made up ~ like a tapestry ~ of innumerable threads that are not-us; they are not simply ours, but in fact, mostly not-ours. Anyone and anything we meet, who crosses our path or impinges upon us in any way, becomes part of our experience, or what we think of as 'our life'. In reality, there is no such thing as 'my life,' but an extremely rich and var-ied composition. See how it happens: just by reading these words, I am becoming part of your life and, in an equally subtle way, you are becoming part of mine. There is very little about us that is really ‘I’. This is why I’ve mentioned so many people in this account, each and every one of them having their own story, which is just like mine, and yours, and everyone else’s, being made up of countless other stories. How fascinating it all is, this tangled skein of life!

None of us, except the least imaginative, can do everything we want to do in the brief time we live, but we all do many things ~ either directly, ourselves, or indirectly, through others ~ and should feel happy at having done and witnessed so many things. By the time it comes to die, instead of feeling regret at having missed certain things, we might think of all the things we did, and say, "I lived!"

 

 

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