How I became a Buddhist

- Miguel Labarca (mla@ctv.es)

When I was 17, my father died. At the moment he died I felt a tremendous impresion and I began to cry with desperation, but in a moment I felt something more powerfull that gave me the certainty that my father was alive. Although at that time I wasn't already a catholic practioner and I didn't believe in God, I remember saying this words: "No, my father isn't dead. My father lives and he is in heaven". During the years to come I was absolutely puzzeld by these words. I couldn't forget the experience but I didn't know how to interpretate it. I made many efforts to forget what hapend there and I began to consume alcohol. When I started attending University, I joined the student oposition movement against Franco (a powerful dictator who ruled Spain during that time). I became communist and I served in several radical groups with marxist ideology.

In the seventies, after the death of Franco, many things changed in Spain. Democracy came and the political parties were legitimized. The frontiers open out to Europe in a moment in which many young people were involved with the hippy movement, so the use of marihuana and psicodelics began to spread out through all Spain. I used to smoke marihuana and hashis and on some ocasions I took LSD. I had different trips in which I had a kind of experience that me and the Universe were the same. It changed powerfully my way of thinking and I abandoned the materialistics ideologies. I experimented then with yoga and some other minor practices, at the same time that some of my friends got addicted to strong drugs and destroyed their lives.

At 26 I attended a course conducted by Lama Gendum Rimpoche in Barcelona. First time I met him, he was going to conduct the Refuge ceremony. At that time I didn't know many things about Buddhism, only some books I had read and informal conversations with several friends who had become practitioners of the Tibetan tradition. But I saw something really special and powerful in that Lama and I desired very much to become Buddhist myself, so I asked for permission to participate in the ceremony and I got it. From that time my buddhist name was Yeshe Gyantso, wich translated is "Ocean of trascendental wisdom".

Some months afterwards I travelled to France to meet Lama Gendum, with my wife and my little daughter. I had many doubts about how to practice buddhism in my daily life because I was alone in my city. He listened to my concerns and suddenly he said he wanted to give me his blessings. Then he impossed his hands on my head and recited aloud some kind of pray or mantra. I felt then so much filled with spiritual energy that during some minutes I forgot absolutely everything about myself. I think it gave me some kind of certainty about the Buddha nature that is at the bottom of every sentient being. I saw very clear that I had to practice every day from then in advance.

After that I tried to practice and study Buddhism seriously. I learnt some meditation technics and recited mantras. During the next five years I received many initiations and received many teachings. I also participated in retreats, alone or with other people. On some occasions I experienced a sort of strength and energy due to my practice, but nothing compared to the one Lama Gendum transmited me in few seconds at the begining of my way. I met many lamas, but most of them only gave us initiations and little more. Litle by little the doubts came to my mind and I was losing the strength of my encounter with lama Gendum. Finally I decided that I didn't fit with the tibetan tradition and I abandoned the practice. I indulge in other things like travelling and mountaneering, and for some years I didn't meet lamas or teachers of any tradition, with the exception of a Zen monk who was begining to stablish the Deshimaru school in Spain.

Although the canddle of spirituality became very tiny it never was completly off. Many times I thought that I was in a sort of parentesis in my life and that I'd go back to the spiritual way. It was so that I met Ana Maria Shluter, the person who would be my teacher for the next ten years. Although she was a Catholic, she has been practicing Zen with Yamada Koun Roshi in Japan, until she herself had received the transmition of Dharma and had become a Zen teacher of the Sanbo Kyodan school.

She gave me the koan MU and I dedicate all my energy to solving it. After a year of really painful practice I broke trough and I got a kensho experience. At the moment I arrived to the "answer" all my doubts disapeared and the clarity of my mind was total and I saw with complete certainty that "it" was there and "it" was me, and "it" was every body and every thing and there was nothing to attain because every thing was perfect in itself at that very moment. It's difficult to put in words what "I" experienced there. Although it happened 11 years ago I still have a vivid memory of it. I wrote a poem after passing the koan, wich I translate now into english:

First thing made me cry
and second thing made me laugh,

But the third one...
Ah! the third one.
I didn't cry nor I laughed.

I only saw.
I saw it as clear as water.

It was me!
I am that!
The ego is dead,
Welcome to life!

After that koan came many others, but the first one is what really matters. The others only clarify it. Nevertheless there were other experiences with other koans wich opened the mind's eye more and more... And after eleven years I know that this is an endless process and that one has to forget all the experiences and has to walk the way with humbleness because the nature of the mind has to be purified every day of our lives.

I want to add that the kensho experience didn't give me nothing that I hadn't at that very moment. And that I knew then that every sentient being has the same and that the only thing to do is descovering it. It has been with us from the very begining and never will abandon us. I could be writing here for hours an days and I couldn't say nothing. Better let it be. I'd like that everybody would experience his/her Buddha nature because it should be the begining of the real peace in the world. And we need so much the peace!

After eigth years of practice with Ana Maria Shluter I got some differences with her because after all I was buddhist and she wasn't. It could seem stupid to find differences after having the experience of Unity, but as it's said "Zen goes beyond the differences, but it doesn't delete the differences". That's the reason why I abandoned Ana Maria.

Now I'm tryng with a new teacher: Boddhin Sensei. He belongs to the Yasutani-Kapleau school of Zen and I feel that I could fit there. I have travelled to USA last summer and it has been the begining of a new stretch of the way. I took the Jukai ceremoy and I became formally buddhist again after so many years. Boddhin Sensei is one person who makes me feel easy. He's a wonderful teacher and I love him. Lets hope it will be the beginning of a strong spiritual reationship.

Finally I want to give my thanks from the bottom of my heart to the person who makes possible to comunicate with other people and to share with them my little story. I enjoy very much to read the experiences of other sincere buddhist practioners and to have the feeling that all us belong to a universal Sangha. Althogh I practice alone most part of the time I feel united to all the Sangha members in the world, never minds what tradition they are. Thanks to Mr Tan and his gracious generosity we can feel the company of lots of followers of the way.

May all beings attain Buddhahood.
May all beings be happy and spread out their happines to all sentient beings.


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