gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

my teacher.

from about 1972 to 1977 i was a very dedicated vippassana buddhist bikkhu within the lineage of u ba kin from burma. i sat with the great vippassana teachers of our time: robert hover, ruth dennison, sri maninderji and, most notably, s.n. goenka. in those early days of goenka's centre, dhammagiri, in igatpurri, india, there were only a few small stone and mud huts in a circle, a dining hall that was also used as a dormitory, a bath area and the meditation hall. during my last retreat, i lived in one of those huts, in silence, for three months near the end of '77.

one morning during the end of the last month, goenka motioned for me to sit up close facing him at the front of the hall. we meditated for about twenty minutes together before i heard him say: "you feel the centre?" "yes i sure do," i responded. then he told me to open my eyes. i looked up at him, but all i could see was a brilliant shimmering light. there was no person there, just a brilliant shimmering light like a sun. eventually i heard him say: "now close your eyes." we sat for a while longer before he told me to go back to my previous place in the hall. suffice it to say, those were three especially transformational months in my life and, by their conclusion, it remained for me to just express my deep gratitude and leave.

in actual fact, i had been waiting to leave. i was excited to leave. because there was nothing i wanted more than to get back up to the mountains to rejoin my other teacher at the time, swami shyamji, whom i had met only earlier that year. it took an eight-hour sleepless overnight train ride and a fourteen-hour rickety old bus ride to get back to his himalayan hermitage. but, once there i somehow felt fairly fresh and fine. i immediately made my way to swamiji's room, knocked and heard him call for me to enter. he was lying down with a chess board on his stomach and a few people sitting around. upon seeing me, he called out: "nathan's come!" with a total disregard for the game he was in the middle of playing, sending chess pieces flying in all directions, he sat up and pulled me down to him. "i knew he would come back," he said to no-one in particular.

swamiji wrapped me in his arms and placed my head on his chest so i could feel his heart beat. it was pounding as though he was as excited as i was. at the same time, he spoke to the other people in the room. "now mr. nathan knows that we are all beings of light, brilliant shimmering light." he reached down and took my head in his hands, wiped my face soothingly and said: "just remember that the sun does not care if you're big or small, boy or girl, black or white, buddhist or hindu. the sun warms everyone the same."

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