Thursday, April 5, 2012

Drugs and Dharma on the way to Monkhood

Ven. Yogavacara Rahula (Scott Joseph DuPrez) One Night's Shelter; Wisdom Quarterly
One Night's Shelter: From Home to Homelessness - The Autobiography of an American Buddhist Monk by Bhikkhu Yogavacara Rahula

Some of the people caught up in the 1960s drug culture ruined their lives. A few turned their lives around and became an example to others.

Bhikkhu Yogavacara Rahula turned away from his unsafe indulgences at the right age by discovering the truth at the right time with the right teachers. "One Night's Shelter" illustrates how this dramatic but gradual change took place.

His teaching of Dhamma [Dharma] is based on his own personal experiences with sex, drugs, rock and roll, and self-centered behavior.

Transforming a chaotic life into a regular one is very difficult, much less turning to the religious and contemplative path. One needs great determination and 100 percent honesty to do it. Bhikkhu Rahula has accomplished this task on his own initiative guided by his own inner voice.

On one level this book could be an inspiring guide to anyone trapped in hedonism and unhealthy habits of body and mind. They will come to see how he gave up these habits and patterns and turned a new page in his life by following the Dhamma. It's not something that happened overnight. But he persevered, aided by the diligent practice of mindfulness.

I met Bhikkhu Rahula in 1985 in Sri Lanka for the first time, when we both happened to be visiting a certain temple in Colombo at the same time. At the time I already had many appointments to see various people and did not have much time to talk with him. When he came to live at the Bhavana Society [in West Virginia, USA] as my assistant in 1987, I began to know him little by little.

...You have to experience it. No matter how many words you hear or read, you will never be able to make this expression with total sincerity and honesty until you touch the depth of Dhamma. "One Night's Shelter" can be an inspiration.
-Ven. Henepola Gunaratana Maha Thera
Abbot, Bhavana Meditation Society

Rt.1, Box 218-3
High View, West Virginia

As an American living as a Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka, the most common question I was posed by the local population as well as by the Western tourists I met was, "Why have you become a Buddhist monk?"

One Night's Shelter or From Home to Homelessness is, you might say, a long indirect reply or description of that process....

The book is divided into two parts. The first half briefly describes my growing up in Southern California during the fifties and sixties, three years in the army with a stint in Vietnam, experimenting with drugs, then playing the hippy while free-wheeling and dealing around half the globe to Nepal where I was destined to meet my Gurus.

This first part is characterized by following the crowd, self-centeredness, and living out my fantasies. The second part traces the beginning of a conscious search for self understanding and Truth -- the journey of gradual spiritual awakening, characterized by intense introspection and struggling against the ego's old habits. The book ends with my ordination as a novice [Theravada] Buddhist monk in Sri Lanka...

Out of necessity for understanding what my mind was going through much about the Buddhist and Yoga philosophy that I was learning and practicing has been explained. Some of it may sound a bit heavy especially for the readers without any prior background or serious interest in what is called the Dhamma (Eastern spiritual teachings)...
-Bhikkhu Yogavacara Rahula, [formerly at] Bhavana Society [now back on the road]

Chapter 1: Growing Up
I came into this world on the first day of summer in 1948 in a dusty town in Southern California near the Mexican border.... These were all valuable lessons in the realities of life which were imprinted on my growing young mind.

I had the average wholesome lifestyle of the time, joining the Y.M.C.A., the Boy Scouts, going on camping trips and being influenced by the new fascinating invention, television. My parents also took my older brother, sister, and me to the local Methodist Church and Sunday school every week.
  • Above: Buddha and tzotchky divinities in window (Hawke-in-flight/ Below: Buddha statute (Indiaaaaaaaaaaaaa/
I played sports in school and started surfing in 1962. When my brother turned sixteen our parents bought him an orange colored 1952 Chevy which we nicknamed, the Crayfish. We would drive down the fifty miles from Riverside to the beach at least twice a month on a surfing safari.

My parents also bought me a car on my sixteenth birthday, a black 1954 Ford panel
delivery van. I started cruising the streets with my friends, going to parties, drinking beer and wine, having different girl friends, and generally just having fun. It was the era of the pop and rock music explosion, long hair, faded Levis and T-shirts, and the more casual free lifestyle for youth, which
started in California and quickly spread.

It was the cultural revolution with the experimentation and popularity of marijuana and LSD and emergence of the hippie movement. I very much indulged in and was conditioned by that eventful time period.

During one of my many surfing trips to Baja California, in Tijuana, I was walking along the street where there were many handicraft shops selling colorful paintings, pottery, blankets, leather goods, etcetera. I passed a shop which had various assorted clay statues all neatly stacked up on display.

I had seen many of these before but something caught my eye as I walked by. I looked over, and perched there on top of a whole array of tall cats, bulls, matadors, and other images, I saw a golden colored statue of a sitting Buddha.

It stood out like a sore thumb above the others and I was intrigued by it. It seemed to be silently saying something to me. At that time, however, I did not know that it was specifically a Buddha statue. But its demeanor and tranquil look, sitting there above the riot of color and gaudy pottery was such a contrast that I bought it and took it home.
  • *LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) is one of the major drugs making up the hallucinogen class. LSD was discovered in 1938 and is one of the most potent mood-changing chemicals. It is manufactured from lysergic acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains.
I put it on top of the old broken television set I had in my bedroom and used it as a place to hang the straw hat I used to wear. When my mother saw it she was a little surprised and told me it was a statue of the Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist religion. How she knew I don't know.

I looked it up in the encyclopedia and read about [the] Buddha's life and the religion he founded. It sounded a bit interesting but did not really "turn me on" at the time. I still used it as a hat rack. On an unconscious level, however, I think that image had a slow and subtle effect on my mind.

I graduated from high school in 1966 during the escalation of the Vietnam War. I went to junior college for one year and started to study the new field of data processing and computer science. It was during this period that I started smoking pot. I first experienced the marijuana "high" while on a surfing expedition down to Mazatlan, Mexico after graduation from high school with a group of surfing friends. More

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