When were you first exposed to dharma?
I was born into a Christian tradition but had more or less lost interest in that as a source for the truth by my teenage years. I was always drawn to science and studied engineering at university, and part of what directed my studies was a belief that I could find some level of explanation of the world through that. You could say I was fascinated by the idea of the ‘Universal Theory of Everything.’ But at some point in my final year of undergraduate school and into my first years of grad school that I started to question whether I was on the right path. Perhaps I just wasn’t very good at quantum physics, but when taking those classes I kept coming back to the notion that the truth should be simple, not something that required pages of probability equations to approximate. At that point I decided to look again at what religion might have to offer. After a few failed attempts at reading the Bible and some other religious philosophies, I came across Buddhism. You could say I found what I was looking for in the first text I read – the logic was clear and simple and fit my experience. I met my teacher a couple years after that and never looked back.
How has the path manifest in your daily experience?
I have been practicing Buddhist methods now for close to two decades, so it is a challenge to look now at how my daily experience is influenced by the path. Without a doubt, my practice greatly influences how I view and interact with the world in personal and professional relationships as well as with strangers. What comes to the front of my mind now in thinking about this now are really two things: compassion and joy. For example, I am not exactly living out the career dreams I had as an idealistic young man. Like many, I had hopes that my career would be something of great benefit to the world while also being immensely satisfying. It was sometime after meeting the dharma that I realized that those ideas were not important. There is joy to be found in every moment, and even a mundane job can be used to bring benefit to others. I certainly have not perfected that practice, but I can truly say I continue to try to hold that view to this day.
If you explore other lineages within buddhism, how did you come to decide on which lineage was right for you?
I practice Diamond Way Buddhism under the guidance of Lama Ole Nydahl, which is in the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Prior to meeting Lama Ole and Diamond Way, I did not practice with any other teachers or spend any significant amount of time using any Buddhist methods from other schools.
Lama Ole has a profound influence on my practice. He is my root lama. Prior to her death, Lamini Hannah Nydahl was also my teacher. All the methods I use come from Ole and Hannah. Lama Ole has had hundreds of students since the time I met him, and while I have seen him many times over the years and even traveled with him, I have never had daily personal interaction with my teacher. This actually has challenged me to develop confidence both in myself and in teachings and methods, and for this opportunity I am extremely grateful.
What are some of your practices/rituals that you do to support your spiritual development (meditation/prayers and etc)
My main meditation practice is a Guru Yoga meditation on the 8th Karmapa. I was given this practice after completing my Ngondro (the foundational practices for Vajrayana Buddhism). In addition to this, I regularly practice a Guru Yoga meditation on the 16th Karmapa. For the past 9 years, I have lived at the local Diamond Way Buddhist Center in Chicago. Living at a meditation center and supporting the local program is a tremendous tool for development.
What is your primarily profession?
I work as a metallurgical engineer in the steel industry. My degree is actually called Materials Science and Engineering. So that way, you could say I am a professional materialist, and there are some practical challenges to applying the teachings on emptiness to my work 🙂 But what I do instead is apply the teachings on compassion to try to build up my colleagues, and try not to take things too seriously and instead see the richness in things, to have fun and create a joyful workplace.
What teachings/practices have had the greatest impact on your life?
Lama Ole is fond of saying “Highest truth is highest joy is highest level of functioning.” You might call this his mantra. To me this is the most pith teaching I’ve received. Everything you need is there.