Welcome to Buddha camp

Walden (the RV) and I turn from Interstate 84 and pass through Port Jervis, New York, a town losing its grip on the cozy cuteness that can still be found in smaller villages farther upstate away from the ever-expanding leveling reach of Manhattan. The two-lane road leaves town and climbs and twists close to the rocky walls until everything south opens and you can see Pennsylvania, Jersey, the waters of the Delaware 300 feet below; and the hills are beautiful and tree-covered, autumn colors, grandma’s quilt in the evening sun. Walden chugs along but I feel no guilt for those waiting to pass now; let them wait and look over the land with me.

Hidden within the woods on 80 acres is the World Peace Temple, a Buddhist center for meditation and study, and this is where I will be staying for some time, perhaps one month, perhaps until spring. Accepted as a working visitor I’m required to do my service on the grounds, will live in the dormitories and attend meditation courses when offered. I have no desire to call myself Buddhist.

Each man is his own religion; how he walks through life speaks louder than church bells. tweet

Each man is his own religion; how he walks through life speaks louder than church bells. Compassion and love, the battlefield of the mind, self-enquiry, simple meditation and selfless prayer all strike chords for me, and have been hard fought principles for apparently I was born a skeptic and question everything. I’ll question this place too, because it’s in the questioning that faith becomes personal and strong. We recognize truth however it comes. And by the fire of our life experiences, that truth is tested and only then hammered home.

There is a trap in seeking. Journeys of self-improvement can become the forever chasing of the proverbial carrot dangling from a string, grasping at happiness just out of reach–if only I was a bit better or knew a bit more! This belief in a path serves its purpose but eventually becomes an obstacle. Tomorrow never comes, when in reality, we aren’t nearly as bad today as we’d like to believe. I’ve felt that trap with my boot toe, the bait being spiritualism instead of materialism, and I’d prefer to step gingerly aside.

So I come here with no demands, but open to new inner potential and insight. I’ve seen my limitations in relationships with my father, my brother, friends and strangers. How I wish to help the world! But until I know myself, I must admit to not knowing how best to connect with others. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the road signs read ‘frustration’ ‘vanity’ and ‘righteousness.’ If now I were to write an essay telling you, for instance, to be more environmentally friendly, those signs would flash bright neon orange. I would use the word ‘should’ a lot, and only defensiveness and divisiveness would result. The art of selflessness is a thing remembered, and maybe there are memories here beneath the trees outside Glen Spey.

Journeys of self-improvement can become the forever chasing of the proverbial carrot dangling from a string, grasping at happiness just out of reach–if only I was a bit better or knew a bit more! Tomorrow never comes, when in reality, we aren’t nearly as bad today as we’d like to believe. tweet

I sit on a little step under a curtain of stars and leaves blow off the trees and the monks walk down the paths to their little wooden houses and there is no waiting for what comes next. The rivers of Montana, the sands of Utah, the coastal forests of the Northwest, all still remain and yes I wish to go eventually, but knowing all real journey happens within, I am here and happy.

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