By Daniel Scharpenburg
I’m doing a series of autobiographical posts, regarding what led to the path of a Buddhist priest. I hope you enjoy these posts. I’ll be talking about myself a lot, which isn’t really normal for me.
A lot of my youth was spent waiting for something to happen.
I believed I would transform or evolve or something. In a way, I suppose you could say that I was right. When I was a kid I thought I might turn into an angel or a psychic, but of course that never happened.
I found the path to awakening instead.
I hadn’t heard of anything like the path to awakening, so in my mind I thought of it in different ways. But, I think deep down it was always the path to awakening, the mystic’s path, that I was thinking of. I just made up metaphors to fill in the gaps.
I sometimes imagined I would step through a doorway and enter another world—a pure land of wonder. But, the truth was I didn’t need to look for a pure land of wonder, because I’m already in one.
And so are you. The pure land is right here.
Anyway, by the time I started college I felt alone in the universe. I had lost both my parents to cancer. My brother—my only sibling—and I were never really close. He is eight years older than me, so I didn’t really grow up with him.
When people ask me how I came to Buddhism, there are two stories that I tell. Both are both true.
I took a World Religions course in college and I read a book for this course called Buddha by Karen Armstrong.
It was like something clicked in me. I’m not sure why it resonated with me so much. One of my teachers says he thinks it’s related to karma from previous lives. I’m not sold on that idea, but I do think it’s interesting.
I didn’t think I should become a Buddhist right away but I really started to think about it a lot. The thought of becoming Buddhist didn’t really enter my mind then, but I thought a little about learning more. Part of what I learned was that meditation was often (but not always) part of Buddhism.
That interested me.
I heard that meditation is sometimes used to treat things like anxiety and I had anxiety problems. Really I had them since I was a kid, but they had gotten a lot worse after I lost my parents. I was just nervous around people.
I tried medication to manage my anxiety, but it turned me into a crazy person, so I had to get off it.
So I decided to try meditation. I started getting books on meditation and studying. I remember the first book on meditation that I read was “Meditation in Action” by Chogyam Trungpa. It was an amazing book and it really inspired me. But I didn’t stop there. I read a lot on the subject and I started doing it. I found that I was pretty good at it. I could sit and work with my mind really well. I had a natural aptitude for the practice.
Now I think it was because I was probably supposed to be a mystic the whole time.
People come to Buddhism for a lot of different reasons, I think. Meditation practice was the gateway for me.
Editor Dana Gornall