The REAL story of how I was introduced to Buddhism
spiritual ego and cosmic humor
I’m taking the Path of Fearlessness course at Insight Meditation Center and there is writing homework :) so I thought I’ll share a snippet…
Write a 500-word essay on the story of how your life led you to Buddhism and Buddhist practice. What were the significant people, events, experiences, learnings, and influences that shaped you in such a way that you became interested in Buddhism?
I grew up in Asian countries where Buddhism is featured prominently, though my family was mostly Christian and much of the practices were seen as folklore. Though one of my early memories is watching a Buddhist monk meditate on television, and me imitating the monk because it felt like a right thing to do…I also recall building a little cave next to my parent’s bed out of blankets and pillows, finding it a place of solace illuminated by red LEDs from a button badge…
My earliest “official” exposure to Buddhism was through a world religion class I took in college. Our teacher was a fun, boisterous man who also taught the drama class. I remember him telling us stories that made us belly laugh. Like how maybe, in the future, archeologists would find these temples called “AT-Ms”! Future historians would hypothesize that we must have worshiped the machines, and ritually smoked tobacco based on the cigarette butts littered nearby. Even as he made light of our human tendencies to make assumptions about religions we don’t understand like this, he made sure that we understood the tenets of major world religions.
I remember that our main course project was to focus on one religion, and I ended up getting assigned Buddhism with my friends. We gathered Buddhist statues, electronic boxes that played amitabha adfinitum… but it lacked an intellectual touch. My friend had somehow obtained this academic textbook on Buddhism, so we placed it in our booth quickly, having nary a time to flip through its contents.
When our teacher came over to examine our booth, we were eager to show off the book to him. Maybe it will impress him?
“Look at the foreword,” our teacher said as he held a fake-serious expression. His name and introduction was printed right there, as the editor of the textbook. Our teacher was Mr Vijaya, a well-respected leader in the Buddhist communities of Malaysia.
So my first formal introduction to Buddhism was one of spiritual ego blowing up in my face–a drive to people please, a failed attempt at looking smart, all with a dose of cosmic humor. This continues to be a theme as I proceed on the path…
After writing the essay, reflect on what it was like for you to write it. Did it provide a new perspective of your life?
It felt good to share a story–it has always been challenging to share with folks the multidimensional, multifactorial origins of practice (of course, there are many more events that unfolded and are still unfolding!) But I really do want to share this story because it illustrates how important good, humorous teachers are to the path.
P.S. When you’re ready, here are ways I can support you:
➞ Debug Your Meditation — This book helps you build a joyful meditation habit.
➞ 1:1 Chat — Do you have a question about Buddhist practice, creative entrepreneurship, or just want to catch up? Let’s do that!