Blog

Although a practicing Buddhist, I’m not a big fan of lofty ideas like “enlightenment.”

Although a practicing Buddhist, I’m not a big fan of lofty ideas like “enlightenment.” Many so called enlightened teachers, some of whom I respected for their unparalleled insights into human psychology, led highly problematic personal lives and used questionable methods with their students. If these people were enlightened, I’d rather remain an ignoramus and keep my name out of the paper for giving my disciples herpes (for example). What I get out of Buddhism is how it helps me live my life here and now.

The Guru’s Touch – Chapter 1. Who by Fire?

IT WAS THE FALL of 1981. I was sixteen. I brought my boom box to the memorial service at Anabel Taylor Hall and set it down within easy reach on the seat next to me. Professor Braff led the service. “Is he some kind of rabbi?” Grandma Millie asked, speaking too loudly. “No Grandma,” my sister Melanie whispered for the umpteenth time. “He’s a professor at the university. A neighbor.” I remember Braff had asked me to speak, but there was no way I was going to get up in front of all those people to “share my thoughts and...

The Guru’s Touch – Chapter 2. Everlasting Happiness and the Ocean of Infinite Bliss

I WAS IN MY junior year of high school. I had been just barely getting by before my mother got sick. Now dragging myself to school was hard enough. Most days I didn’t even go. I either hung out in the student lounge or got high with my friends at nearby Lake View Cemetery. I dreaded the idea of writing college application essays, visiting schools, and being subjected to interviews. Picturing the slew of rejection letters that was sure to follow filled me with anxiety. But what frightened me even more was the realization that even if I somehow did...

The Guru’s Touch – Chapter 3. New Friends

THE RAJA YOGA CENTER was located just west of campus, in a three-story Queen Anne style mansion on Buffalo Street. Even before I saw the sign I could smell the sandalwood incense wafting from its open windows. I looked for a place to lock up my bike and then heard a voice from behind me say, “You can bring it inside.” I turned to see a tall, thin, bespectacled man with serene, ice-blue eyes, impeccable posture, and a perfect haircut. He was dressed in a pale yellow cardigan, freshly pressed khaki pants, and casual dress shoes. He looked to be in...

The Guru’s Touch – Chapter 4. The Call From Afar

LIFE SUDDENLY HAD MEANING. I had found a goal: the attainment of God-realization. Over the next month, I became a regular at the Raja Yoga center and began meditating at home twice a day. With the photo of Baba, an incense holder, and a hand bell, I improvised a puja altar on top of my dresser. I prayed to Baba with all my heart to allow me to meet him and to receive shaktipat as soon as possible. As I gazed at his picture, an all-knowing, infinitely compassionate Baba stared back at me. The Raja Yoga center became like a...

The Guru’s Touch – Chapter 5. A Ripening of Karmic Fruit

The chant ended. Alan Jones, who was visiting the Ithaca center from the ashram in Birchwood Falls, had a special announcement. “Jai Gurudev!” “Jai Gurudev!” everyone responded. “I’m here to let you know the latest word from Ravipur is that Baba will be returning to Birchwood Falls at the end of March.” Alan’s announcement was interrupted by a loud round of applause and more cheers of “Jai Gurudev!” My chest buzzed and I had difficulty sitting still. The guru would be here much sooner than expected. “It will be the first time Baba has ever visited the East Coast in...

The Guru’s Touch – Chapter 6. A Warm Welcome

“ONE TICKET TO BIRCHWOOD FALLS, New York, please.” “Round trip or one-way? “One-way.” I paid for my ticket and Melanie followed me out to the parking lot of the station, where my bus was idling. “It’s not too late to change your mind, Doug.” Melanie’s posture was bent and the corners of her mouth were turned down. “You could help me in the nursery. I would pay you, of course. Maybe you could take some courses at Tompkins Cortland Community College.” I handed the bus driver my ticket and duffel bag to stow. “I’m sorry, Melanie, but my mind is...

The Guru’s Touch – Chapter 7. Angel

After lunch, Alan introduced me to Mukti at the reception desk, which was now open. Then he left me to my own devices. Mukti was a woman in her late thirties with deep, dark circles under her eyes and a sagging face. Her teeth were crooked and stained, and her hair, which she wore in a tight bun on the top of her head, was an unattractive mixture of yellow and gray. I filled out the accommodation form and left the departure date blank. When I was finished, Mukti snatched the paper away from me and carefully read what I...