I guess I became an "official" Buddhist two weeks ago (took the precepts), although I have been practicing intermittently for the last two or three years.
I have always been spiritually oriented, even as a child. I started out as a fervent fundamentalist, even acting as a street-corner preacher for a while. I was turned off to Christianity during the early sixties, at the beginning of the civil rights movement. I noticed that there were no black people in my church, and asked my pastor why. His response was what you would expect from a southern preacher back then: very negative.
From Christianity, I went to becoming a bitter atheist, and dabbled with other practices such as black magic (I was a fan of Aleister Crowley). During my college years in the early 70's, however, I was an agnostic and student radical.
After college, my radicalism and agnosticism mellowed somewhat, and I eventually found my way to a Quaker meeting (Milwaukee Monthly Meeting) in the eighties. There I found a home for a while, until for business reasons I was forced to move back east. I tried Quakerism in Philadelphia for a while, but found my practice mostly sterile, although there are many wonderful people there.
During all of the times since I gave up fundamentalism, I have read books on philosophy and religion, including eastern religion. I do remember reading Paul Reps and Alan Watts early on, and I still have an old copy of "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, and an early copy of "The Spirit of Zen" on my bookshelf.
I guess it was "The Miracle of Mindfulness," by Thich Nhat Hahn that really opened my eyes to Buddhism. I read this book after my Quaker years, and was impressed by the poetry and simplicity of this work. I started meditating intermittently after this, and eventually found my way to Insight Meditation Society two years ago. After spending a 9-day retreat there, I came away convinced that Buddhism was for me. It took two more years until I found a teacher and took the precepts. So I am just at the beginning of my journey as a Buddhist. Who knows where this journey may lead.
Gassho and Metta to all.
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