My first exposure to Buddhism wasn’t significant. In fact, it was a turn off. A man who claimed to be Buddhist visited our high school and basically told our class his goal was to become a heartless robot. Well, not entirely, but pretty much… There wasn’t any joy.
I was more connected to the teacher than the teaching at first. I had a vision of a teacher, in the way you generate a visualization of a deity during some Vajrayana practices, while the lines of “Crying to the Guru from afar” started playing in my head. I had only ever read the text once, so was quite surprised to learn that I had memorized it.
My first year of high school I attended an independent Episcopalian school that required us to take a course teaching “world history” and “world literature” as seen through the lens of the religious traditions of the world. The course was constructed explicitly as a rite of passage, and the challenges were so intense that every one of us was transformed by the experience.
At 19 I was finishing my second year of college. I was studying fine art photography. One of my professors was very scholarly and her class was very challenging. I was always looking to be challenged. Her subject was East Indian Art. My boyfriend at the time was graduating. He was/is Japanese American and had grown up always being a minority, and wanted to experience being in a place where he was in the majority. We couldn’t afford to travel in Japan, so he chose India. It was about 1980… I took the year off from school. We were serious budget travelers, 3rd class all the way….