Here’s a guest post by Gary about the pull he felt towards spiritual practice, and the path it took him on.
I have always enjoyed reading and have had a particular affinity for books on eastern philosophy. I remember seeking out books on Buddhism on lunch hour at the local library, as well as, scouring local bookstores whenever I had free time. Having grown up a Catholic, I was not too sure what I was getting into, but still I explored. I found books by the Dalai Lama, Dainin Katagiri, Philip Kapleau, and many more. The books were fascinating, but I must admit my comprehension level was quite low. Soon, my explorations led me to check out the philosophy from India and various Indian swamis and saints over the years. I spent hours reading Swami Rama, Swami Chetanananda, and Yogananda, to name a few.
Each day, I would write in my journal, dream, and pray about what I pictured as the “perfect” spiritual retreat – this was quite an undertaking since I was not affiliated with any formal spiritual group. I dreamt about my ideal place having a Swami from India and beautiful grounds, but knew of no such place anywhere nearby until one fateful day having run out of bookstores known to me I skimmed the Yellow Pages and found a listing for the Vedanta Society of Sacramento Bookstore. Having no clue what type of bookstore this was, nonetheless, I called and then soon thereafter drove over to what turned out to be a beautiful 8 acre retreat garden and monastery complete with a Swami from India – I could hardly believe my eyes, this place was hidden right in the middle of Sacramento and I had been oblivious of it for over 20 years.
As it turns out, I began attending the Vedanta center and learning first-hand from a Swami from India. What I like about Vedanta is the Advaita philosophy of non-dualism, as well as, the teaching that each person can follow his or her own path toward realization. The center I attend in Sacramento follows the teachings of Ramakrisha, a 19th century saint from Calcutta, India. Buddha and his teachings are also revered. My time with Vedanta has taken me on trips to India two times. I have been able to see the Vedanta world headquarters in Calcutta, the temple where Ramakrishna lived, the holy city of Varanasi, and where Buddha gave his first public talk.
That was 10 years ago that I discovered Vedanta, or I should probably say that it was “revealed” to me. During the past 10 years, I have delved into Vedanta deeper and have sought out all I could find on Buddhism, particularly Zen. Most recently, I have found doing searches on Amazon to yield quite fruitful results, and one evening while searching “zen buddhism,” I found a listing for No River to Cross. I read the reviews and the pages of the text available. There was no doubt in my mind – this was a book to order. So, a few days later the book arrived and I excitedly began reading it. Daehaeng Kun Sunim is definitely a breath of fresh air – her deft touch and heartfelt guidance shine through from start to finish. And, once again, a dream has come to fruition – I have been led to a spiritual master, and have come in contact with some wonderful folks all the way across the world in Korea. I am indeed quite thankful.