Saturday, March 24, 2007

Comes the Peace

I just met a remarkable man who has written a remarkable book. His name is Daja Wangchuk Meston, and the book is called Comes the Peace, My Journey to Forgiveness (Free Press, 2007). Here is the excerpt that he read at a gathering tonight. I dare you to read this and then tell me you don't want to read the rest.

Chapter Four -- Ordination

Disillusioned about her own unhappy childhood, my mother was determined that I would not grow up as she or anyone in her family had, seduced by wealth and fame, drugs and booze. The surest way was to physically remove me from her childhood home. Temptations that haunted her in Beverly Hills would never be a part of my life in one of the poorest countries of the world.

She could think of nothing better for me that memorizing scriptures, sitting at the feet of the lamas, and one day, after having mastered English in classes, traveling around the world with them as their able translator. In her eyes, I could be a Buddhist teacher, greatly appreciated and respected. Wearing maroon robes and going barefoot, I wouldn't be troubled with appearances. My days would be deliciously spent in spiritual texts, exploring questions that really mattered -- like "What is compassion?" -- and engaging in lively debates with wise men. As a monk, I would learn morality, empathy, suffering, and the nature of impermanence, things she says she never learned in school. Protecting me from evil was her was of showing love for me.

And so, after consulting with her lama, my mother arranged to have me sent to the monastery at the age of six to spend the rest of my life as a Buddhist monk. In the Tibetan culture, it's not unusual for young boys to go into the monastery. She thought I would learn not to need her, as she had learned not to need her own mother.

I can't help but feel there was the matter of convenience. She being a nun, I being a monk, we would both be consumed with spiritual studies, and she wouldn't have to worry about being a mother to me in the traditional sense. We could grow blissfully spiritual, but independently, without me needing her guidance or affirmation, she assumed. Our lives could follow parallel paths and never have to intersect and intertwine. I would get what I needed from the monastery and the teachers there and not have to bother her. Moreover, I would be so isolated I wouldn't even realize I was missing something.

There was only one problem: I shared none of my mother's aspirations for myself and she never supported mine. We were pursuing the exact opposites.


Anonymous said...

For the locals here (speaking of stats) the author, Daja Wangchuk Meston, reads from Comes the Peace at Jabberwocky Bookshop, 50 Water Street, Newburyport, MA, 7 PM, Fri, Mar 30.

I loved this book--honest, self-effacing, funny, gentle, and frightening.

carolegarden said...

Resilience. If we could locate the source, we could heal from within. This young man has it. Left at age three by his American mother to grow up in Tibet, he survived that maternal loss and grew into a kind, open, bright adult. I am still reading and in awe.

Anonymous said...

I read this book. I highly recommend it to anyone!