"I am a Buddhist monk. A fairly extreme thing to be, in the view of many people, but after almost five years I take it pretty much for granted. Too much, perhaps.
If so, then why am I writing about it? Although I have never had any desire to tell everybody my boring story, the editor of the Tibetan Review asked me to write about how a Westerner becomes a Buddhist monk because this issue of the Review is devoted to Dharma in the West, and he thought that some of his readers might be interested in such phenomena. Accordingly, I have agreed to try.
November 1972. The Kopan meditation course. There we were, about fifty out-of-control Westerners from all over the world, strangers stuck together for a month, most of us listening to Dharma teachings for the first time. Up at five in the morning, out into the cold, to sit cross-legged for an hour and a half’s meditation. A one-hour break for breakfast, then the morning discourse until lunchtime. After lunch, a group-discussion period followed by the afternoon discourse. Chai at five, more meditation at six, dinner at eight, bed at ten. This went on relentlessly for thirty days. For the last two weeks we even skipped breakfast and dinner and got up an hour earlier. Most of us had never disciplined ourselves that much before. Most of us enjoyed it immensely.
What I’d come to Kathmandu for was to meet a friend. But I had hardly stepped off the bus when I ran into somebody else, an acquaintance from the Southeast Asian travelers’ trail, who immediately took me to his hotel and then proceeded to show me around town. Enumerating the limitless attractions of Nepal, he mentioned in passing a meditation course that would be starting in a week’s time at a place called Kopan, just outside the city of Kathmandu. As there was no sign of the friend I’d come to meet, as I did have an interest in learning about Buddhist meditation, and as it seemed cheaper to stay at Kopan than in Kathmandu, I decided to enroll for the course."
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