In many ways, Buddhism has influenced culture, society and business (the triangle technology-economy-politics) in the industrialised countries of the western hemisphere. Now that I have been meditating and conversing with, and most of all, listening attentively to authentic teachers from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar, I am able to discern a major difference between the ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ attitude towards the teachings of the Noble One. In order for you, dear reader, to understand what I mean when saying ‘able to discern’ I will simply start with my own experience.
I encountered Buddhism early on. I was about 17 when I first heard about it. It was when I listened to music by Banco de Gaia. I read the back of the CD cover and discovered a paragraph about Tibet’s recent history. The album is called Last Train To Lhasa.
Dhamma books became constant companions in my 20s. That is, in the 2000s. I was something you could call a book stand Buddhist. Knew all the answers. Theoretically, I was already fully enlightened haha 😉 It took about a decade and a lot of dukkha to stop that bullshit. Well, some of my friends would negate I am over it. But what do they know, right?!… ahem.
For those of you who do not know what dukkha means, GIYF. I will just say that it is worth the effort to do some thorough research. Because IMHO, it is a word that could help clear up a lot of delusion and confusion if being integrated into English language.
I was inspired to actually practise when I was 23. It was in Sydney. I had a walk in the Japanese garden near the city harbour and opera hall, yes, the one that looks stylish and futurama. There was a tea ceremony. I took part in it. And something clicked. This happened 3 days or so before my flight back to Vienna.
I started meditating on my own. Read the tibetan book of the dead and didn’t have a clue what it meant. But it was a good read, nevertheless. With a meditation guide book by Anthony Matthews, I took my first steps on the path to liberation. I knew what suffering was. At least I thought so. I have read books about Zen and I can see now what a waste of time that is. But at the time it was just cool, this Zen thing, samurai and shit.
My first encounter with institutionalised Buddhism, so to speak, was a Tibetan community (Karma Kagyu Sangha) in Vienna. After sitting and visualising with them – my legs hurt like crazy and I keep asking myself what the fuck am I doing here… yes, I used to talk to me like that, can you imagine?!
After about two years I meditated with dhamma friends at the Interbeing Sangha which is associated with the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh. We met once or twice a week as far as i can remember. I stayed with that group for about 2 years as well.
Then I was inclined towards Theravada. Then I found out about S.N. Goenka and the Vipassana tradition. I sat three 10-day retreats at new-year. I have met a Qi Gong master called Genro Laoshi and a Dzogchen master called James Low.
Do you see where this is leading…? You see a pattern here…?
Constantly on the move. Looking for the best… the best technique, the best teacher, the best sangha, the best retreat, the best location, the best experience… hmmm… and not stop for a single moment to realise my own controlessness (new word!) in the process of life flowing on and on. Too preoccupied with how the system of Ajahn This or Master That works or with what Guru This or Teacher That says.
Maybe some of you have experienced something along these lines. Been there. Done that. Eventually, done everything, in other words nothing at all. Like collecting data for a research programme instead of initialising the work within.
Some tune their car and fuel it. Some tune their ego and fuel it. Sprit or spirit, same same.