I was walking down the road, swinging my monkey stick at the hopping, chattering pack of monkeys,when a large, red-faced man emerged from the Tushita Meditation Center.
Scarin’ the monkeys off, are ya? he asked in a very American accent. Does it work?
We fell into a conversation about aggressive monkeys and skittish dogs. He carried a crimson bag with Tibetan Buddhist insignia on it, and a matching meditation mat. He told me he had just come from hearing Tenzin Palmo speak. Tenzin Palmo is the author of “A Cave in the Snow.” She was born in England, but was drawn to the East all her life. Her journey led her to India, where she ended up meditating in a cave for twelve years.
My companion and I continued down the road, and the monkeys left us alone. He told me that he was studying to become a Tibetan monk, and would be ordained by the Dalai Lama in March.
He’s also going to be my teacher, he explained. He’s still a teacher, you know that?!
I told him I didn’t know that, but that I thought it was fantastic that he would have such an amazing teacher.
Yeah, it should be great, he said. After classes, all the monks go out for beers together!
I looked at him, shocked.
Really? I asked, gullible as ever.
Naw, come on now! he said, red-faced and happy. I’m just pullin’ your leg!
I asked him why he wanted to be a monk.
Oh, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine, he said. From the moment I read my first book on Buddhism, I knew that being a monk was the path for me.
He told me he didn’t have children, and that both of his parents had passed away.
My brothers and sisters are self-sufficient and happy, so that makes it easy for me to pack up and live in India, he explained.
I kept prodding him with questions, and he answered them happily.
Oh, I don’t want to be a boring, priestly monk, he continued, amused. His face was bright red, and his belly shook as he began laughing.
I want to have FUN, you know!? I want to spread this joy AROUND!
I nodded in approval.
When we got to town, he nodded at the stick I was still holding.
You can probably put that down now, you know? he said. Then he winked at me. Unless you’re afraid of all these Hindus!
He roared with laughter, and when he got himself under control, he held out his hand to me.
I’m William, he said. I’m from Boulder, Colorado.
I introduced myself, and shook his hand.
Sarah, he said, repeating my name. Sarah, it’s been a pleasure.
His large belly heaved as he caught his breath.
You’re a doll, he went on. A real doll.