I did go see the chanting monks, but to my consternation I did not see the Dalai Lama when he came to campus that year when I was a sophomore. I don't know where my head was. And I could have used some spiritual help that year. My father would have been happy with me, too. He saw D.T. Suzuki at Johnson Chapel; my seeing his holiness would have been a great counterpoint to that. I don't know what I believed in then… being an English major, I guess. And other foolishness. Why did I not take a class with Robert Thurman? That would have changed the course of my education, I'm sure. But I fell into the pagan cult of English, and worse things too. Punk that I was.
But you cannot avoid being a Buddhist. The way of thinking is simply tried and true, the most accurate picture the primate human animal has ever come up with. And we are all vessels of the dharma and its truth. Like a typical fool American kid, I missed it, and stumbled on into years of what should be adulthood under the general illusions of society and consumerist bent, to which I suppose Buddhism is a threat.
If you're an artist I guess you have a second chance, for being able to appreciate, as you would the simplicity of a Zen garden, the coherent logic of the Buddha, the no self, the law of dependent origination, the noble truths, the proper steps on the path, the concept of the subtle mind operating below the quantum level… And what you do, when it runs contrary to that system is indeed foolishness and wasted time. Who knows why such things happen, misguided foolishness, wasted years spent under illusions… who knows.
It is important to go see such a person, as his holiness, just like it's important to have a guru. You get it much better, in person. You see the effects of all that spiritual training, the meditation, the self-control, the enlightened quality. Why my arrogance, passing up such a chance, I feel very shameful… The only thing is, Buddha wouldn't want one to dwell on such a thing… Not to worship, but to follow the path, that is the important thing.
Perhaps this is a bad habit enabled by American literature, as if we have to go on a long voyage with Captain Ahab or Dean Moriarty to earn enlightenment, only getting it on the very last page, and even then just for a lyrical moment before probably going right back to square one. The curse of having no long traditions, no structure to fall into to save ourselves. Consumerist fools that we are. Is it that we are subject to the Christian tradition, left to consider a mystifying story, not very well explained, almost political, a great work of literature, but why not, like the Buddha, stop to explain things, keeping it simple… not to confuse us into thinking that we too are little Jesus Christs. But yes, the whole Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition is aimed at a political world, and look at the consequences. We might think it's necessary to be political, but it's all missing the point, the business of really considering the nature of reality… Of course, you can get Theosophically theologically imaginative and say the Cross itself is a simple of our being stuck to Three-Dimensional reality, the Cross being a cube laid open, as if to explain a three dimensional object to a two dimensional existence… but no one, being stuck in tradition would really listen to you anyway, not for a moment, believe me. Religions meant for family and professionals and the world of the worldly, of appointed time… but, one might argue, missing something. "Hey, look at me, see how well I cope with society and fight wars to keep us safe from 'those people…'"
Well, you don't buy Buddhism. You get it, you comprehend it, you understand it, you see the infinitely layered beautiful wisdom of it, and it causes you to be compassionate. And maybe you celebrate that, well, after all, no, it's not too late, look on the bright side. Take great joy in simple things.