More than two decades ago, during a retreat at Spirit Rock in California, the seed of this project was planted. My own struggles on the Buddhist path in the Western world, where numerous teachers and lineages seemed available, motivated me to embark on this long-term project. Initially conceived as a coffee table book on the visual study of Buddhism in the West in 2016, the project has now evolved into a multimedia undertaking that focuses on highlighting genuine lineages and the transformative power of Buddhist practice.
With the increasing popularity of mindfulness practices in many secular domains, I felt that it was an opportune moment to share the origins of meditation and other profound teachings of the Buddha, as they adapt to contemporary society. By showcasing the experiences of lay practitioners and teachers, this project provides a distinctive visual and anecdotal representation of the Buddhist path from a diverse range of perspectives.
For those who are curious about Buddhism, the project frames the foundations of Buddhist practices through the lens of spiritual friendship. Just as we generally trust our friends when they are passionate about something, we should take it upon ourselves to validate their experiences. Even for seasoned practitioners, the project may offer insight into the fruition of the path in ordinary individuals.
Being born into a Buddhist household would seem to suggest a fortunate circumstance for embarking on the Buddhist path. However, my journey towards finding my own path was not as straightforward as one might assume. Nonetheless, rediscovering the dharma after college was the initial step in my journey. The first decade was spent chasing retreats and attempting to build a daily meditation practice. Although I was drawn to the experiential aspect of the practice, my perspective and habits did not change significantly. Even after shifting to Tibetan Buddhism during an ‘advance’ retreat at Spirit Rock, progress was hindered by the lack of a formal teacher and sangha.
Regarding my professional life, I began as a software engineer during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and later became a professional photographer after the boom ended. Although the project’s idea was conceived early on, I didn’t believe I could handle it professionally while growing an agency and raising a family. After attending a vision quest and reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic,” I decided to start the project at the end of 2016.
Naturally, the project embodied my personal and professional interests and was a crucial turning point in finding deeper meaning while living the American dream. Despite outward success, my disillusionment with the American dream and my habitual patterns left me feeling dissatisfied. As the project progressed and I began my ngondro practice, I began to see the project as an integral part of my spiritual journey. As I deepen my practice, I hope that the wisdom gleaned from hearing all these stories will inform the final form of the project. Regardless, it was important for me to dedicate the merits of this practice/project to the benefit of all sentient beings on a continuing basis. Additionally, I plan to donate a portion of the profits from this project to support my root teacher’s Tsoknyi Nepal Nuns Foundation. Although I have been fortunate enough to experience teachings from a variety of Tibetan teachers such as Mingyur Rinpoche, Khandro Rinpoche, and Anam Thubten, I have committed to the Dudjom Tessar Lineage as part of my ngondro practice but am still in the process of finding a root guru.