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.
My first exposure to dharma was during my undergraduate studies majoring in Philosophy/Asian Studies. However, this didn’t translate to a personal practice until a few years later when I lost two friends to suicide in a six-month period. The bereavement related to their deaths was so overwhelming that it forced me to seek out additional community and support.
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.
I learned about meditation as a youngster, but it wasn’t until around 2004 that I started going to the Dharma Punx group on Friday nights in SF (the Back of the Bus) and hearing the dharma talks there in a language I could understand and with people that looked like me that I really felt exposed. It became my path when I learned to walk again as a sober man in 2014.
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….
In brief, I currently aspire to the Vajrayana path as laid out by the great masters of the Indian and Tibetan Buddhist lineages. Many have dedicated their entire lives to the preservation of their lineage which has been unbroken and thus is an intact living lineage, still “whispered” from teacher to student .