Meeting My Teacher
Sometimes, a spiritual mentor seems to pick his students with a simple action
Excerpted from "Voices of Insight," edited by Sharon Salzberg and used with permission ofShambhala Publications, Inc.
My first teacher Anagarika Munindra has, over the years, continually guided, influenced, and inspired my spiritual practice. He is also an early teacher of many who were instrumental in establishing the teachings of the Buddha in the West. So it can be said that Munindra is one of the grandfathers of Vipassana and lovingkindness meditation in the West.
It was during that weekend retreat in San Jose, California, that I first heard about Munindra (or, as he was often called, Munindraji, the ending--ji
-- conveying affectionate respect). He was described as a highly esteemed and well-loved meditation teacher with a great deal of textual knowledge, and a wealth of experimental wisdom from his meditative practice as well. In a few months he would arrive in America for the very first time to visit his students and to teach intensive retreats. The planning was underway for him to teach a one-month retreat in San Jose, near the town of Aptos where I lived.
Unexpectedly, I found myself filled with joy and anticipation at the thought of being able to devote myself to a month of practice, which was quite a big jump after only having just done a weekend retreat. And I didn't even have to go to India--a part of India was coming to San Jose! Out of sheer intuition, and a bit or impetuousness, I signed up retreat, not really knowing if this was the teacher for me or how I would work out the details of being away from home. As I took the steps to fulfill that decision, a mysterious flood of confidence filled my heart.
There are many arrangements to make so far in advance in order to be away for that long. Getting responsible care for my children, working overtime to save enough pocket money to cover expenses for the time off without pay as well as the cost of the retreat, stocking up on food and supplies, cooking and freezing some dishes ahead of time, and the usual endless clothes washing and housecleaning. The hardest part was preparing the children for my being away for so long. As it turns out, I was only able to participate in half the retreat because I just couldn't stay away from the kids the entire time.